By Randy C. Davis
President & Executive Director, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board
We were at a deacons retreat on the Mississippi Gulf Coast when we got news that a granddaughter of one of the deacons had been taken to the hospital gravely ill. Holly soon died from a brain aneurysm.
I was the beautiful nine-year-old girl’s pastor. The deacons and I loaded up, left the retreat and headed to the hospital. The only thing we could do was “be there.” Why cut the retreat short and all of us head to the hospital? Because that is what brothers and sisters in Christ do: we show up.
There is “power in presence.”
Our Lord knows and practices this:
… to Joshua, “I will be with you.”
… to the disciples, “I will be with you.”
… to the broken and broken hearted, “I will be near you.”
God never promises the absence of grief and valleys, but He always promises He will walk with us, like a shepherd, when we walk through the grief filled valleys.
Both believers and nonbelievers alike have experienced wave after wave of overwhelming grief and heavy burden over the last couple of weeks.
The plight of the Afghan people and the death of American military personnel trying to serve them, the earthquake in Haiti, and the loss of close friends and great Tennessee Baptist leaders because of COVID. Yet the Lord is with us through it all.
I saw the Lord’s presence expressed through His people firsthand in Waverly where recent devastating floods ravaged that little town nestled in a valley along a normally tranquil creek.
When I arrived Monday after the Saturday flooding, Scott Brown, pastor of Waverly First Baptist Church, and the church’s members had converted their entire campus into the recovery effort’s epicenter. Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers under the capable compassionate, and stable leadership of TBDR Director Wes Jones, were on site engaging the crisis and serving people.
We showed up. And we will walk with that community for a long time.
People are always wondering what to do or what to say during times when others have suffered great loss. My advice: just be there. Show up. Yes, do what you can to help, but words can too often be woefully inadequate for the depth of pain people experience.
Presence never is inadequate. Presence communicates, “I see you grieving and hurting, and I grieve with and support you.” People’s worlds are often spinning out of control in a time of crisis and your presence may very well be their lifeline. A familiar face to maybe slow their world a little bit. A friend to offer some stability; someone to lean on until they have the strength to stand on their own.
The Holy Spirit offers a unity burst when Christ followers come together in the face of a great obstacle, and often those great obstacles become great opportunities.
Think of all the Kingdom work that has been done when we as Tennessee Baptists show up and come together. We’ve cooperated to build great hospitals. We’ve collectively and financially supported local-to-global missionary agencies, and orphanages, and Christian universities. We feed the hungry and minister to those devastated by natural disasters. And on it goes.
This world is never going to be without grief, hurt and heartache. It is into the messiness of an angry and divided culture that our Lord calls us to get shoulder-to-shoulder and heart-to- heart, and be His church ministering to people while sharing His gospel.
We live in difficult days, but we are people of eternal hope. Let’s face our collective grief and seize the day by showing up and practicing the power of presence by operating in His power and His presence.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you. B&R