I have several questions within the topics you speak upon, but I will begin with this one regarding suffering:
About a month ago, the husband of one of my wife’s co-workers was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. The other co-workers (not believers) ask why God would allow this to happen. In attempting to help my wife interact with her co-workers, I advised for her to listen and weep with them at this time. Their emotions seemed to be driving the question rather than inquiry. A time will come for the a reasonable answer, but that would not comfort in the emotional turmoil of the moment.
Was there a better answer that I missed? What would be the next step in conversation with the co-workers?
The introduction states that you speak on a variety of topics. Are these talks available either in audio or as a blog? There are some subjects I would like to engage to ask further questions.
Thanks for your questions. To answer your first question, if you go to rzim.org and do a search for my name then you can reference any past articles or resources that I have contributed to. Most of them are free to access, apart from the RZIM Academy core module lecture that I give on The Trinity and the elective What does it mean to be Human on Love and Relationships. To view previous talks you can search the RZIM youtube channel as well.
In regards to the question about your wife’s co-workers, I want to commend you and your wife for the sensitivity you are practicing as you respond to their suffering. In the midst of such personal suffering as a loved one or a co-worker, usually the last thing needed is philosophical reasoning, even when people are asking ‘why’ they are suffering.
In fact, the preeminent aspect of the Christian response to the problem of pain and suffering is that the God of the universe responds to the suffering of humanity with his embodied presence through Jesus Christ. In John 11 we see that Jesus responds to Mary and other mourners at the tomb of Lazarus, just as you counseled your wife, with tears and profound grief. As Christians we are called to testify to the beauty of the gospel by bringing Christ to our world through our physical presence. When we identify with, and have compassion in the suffering and grieving of others, we give a much more powerful response than words alone could ever offer. Also, our compassion gives an invitation for deeper relationships and further conversation at a later point.
When it comes to taking next steps in conversation it is important to remember that your co-workers are individuals, so chances are each will respond diferently to your invitation to go deeper on the subject. The first step is to continue to be open and invitational in your conversations with them. It is important that they feel listened to and that you are interested in them as people, whether or not they ever want to talk further on this subject or if they ever become Christians. Next, if it is possible, you and your wife may want to find ways of offering support to the wife who’s husband is ill. For, example maybe she could organize something like meals, house cleaning or child-care if appropriate, and invite the other coworkers to participate in a practical response to suffering. I often find that it is easier to go deper in converstaions with people if those conversatiosn happen over a meal, or coffee and in smaller groups. Maybe your wife could sync some of her breaks at work with some of the co-workers that have questions. Then she could invite them to tell her how they are feeling about the news, how they deal with suffering in their own lives. As she listens, chances are she will be invited to share more of her hope in suffering.
I am often struck by how willing people are to recieve prayer, even when they are not believers. Prayer is such a crucial aspect of dealing with suffering. As you and your wife continue to pray for your co-workers during this time, you may find opportunities to offer prayer for those who are greiving at work. Don’t be afraid to be open and honest about your reliance on prayer and continue to offer prayer for individuals in your workspace.
On that note, I would like to end with a prayer for you and your wife as you journey with her co-workers at this time.
Heavenly Father, thank you so much for sending Jesus to us in the midst of our suffering. We are in awe of your love and compassion for us. Thank you that you promised that you will never leave us or forsake us, and we choose to trust your word even when we cannot understand or see you. I pray specifically for Daren and his wife, that you would remind them personally of the power and hope of your resurrection life. I pray that as they reach out to these co-workers, the light of your glorious gospel would shine through them. I pray that this office space would be a place where the comfort of the Holy Spirit and the truth of Jesus Christ would be seen and known through Daren and his wife. Give Daren’s wife eyes to see and ears to hear where you, Lord, are prompting her to go further in conversations. I pray that you would comfort the wife and husband going through this sickness and that you would use this suffering to turn them and many other co-workers to you in repentance. Thank you that you are real and that you care for us in our suffering. In Your name Jesus, I pray. Amen.