Tell me, what is more disturbing… his suffering from the hiccups or his suffering from these miserable comforters?
“Jennifer says ‘Drink hot milk sprinkled with white pepper’… Hayley in Newcastle say ‘Hold your breath, count to 60 really quickly and then swallow.’”
I’m just amazed at how graciously he handles it all. I suppose he’s had plenty of practice.
Ask yourself seriously, how long could you spend around Chris without offering some home-spun remedy? Here we have professional interviewers who do a terrible job of interviewing. They don’t seem able to enter Chris’s world, only to offer advice from a distance. That’s them. But is it us too?
It all reminds me of the story of Job. In the beginning his three friends really did mean to comfort. And yet, because of their theology, they could not stand Job’s suffering without trying to fix it. They offer their remedies – Get righteous, Return to the Lord, Put sin away. When Job doesn’t get better they only become more agitated. In the end, Job calls them tormentors! That’s a strong word, but when we read Job we know that the shoe fits.
How were they “tormentors”? Very simple really. They were friends who couldn’t enter into suffering without apportioning blame and without trying to “fix it”. They didn’t mean to be tormentors but they were. They began well – for the first seven days they just sat with their suffering friend. That week of silent solidarity was the best thing they did. When they opened their mouth, that’s when trouble began.
When Chris went on Japanese TV they instantly received over 400 suggested cures. Thankfully they also heard from a doctor who wondered if there was a tumour. Sure enough, an MRI scan found a benign growth on his brain stem that was triggering the hiccups. The operation to remove it not only cured his hiccups but possibly saved his life (More here).
Here’s what it makes me think. There was one person with knowledge. The help of the Japanese doctor actually helped. But in the vast majority of cases “helpers” proved to be miserable comforters. Not because they wanted to exasperate him. But because they wanted to fix him, rather than hear him. There’s a time and a place for expert fixing. But don’t assume that you are the expert. We need a hundred friends and one expert. We do not need a hundred experts and no friends!
So when your friend is suffering and you don’t know how to fix it, Relax. That’s not your job. Don’t be an expert. Don’t offer home-spun wisdom. And don’t be afraid that you don’t have “a fix.” More often than not, a friend is more precious than a fix.