A number of books out there on how to relate to others who are hurting are very long, and not very deep. It is one thing to read a book written by a gifted communicator and writer who churns out principles and concepts, writing more out of position than experience. But it is quite another thing to read a book on this subject when the person writing it is not a counselor or a pastor sitting from atop his ivory tower, but written by a pastor who is experiencing such suffering himself.
That’s why Dave Furman’s Being There is such an important book. It is not written from the perspective of a pastor who’s never suffered, but a pastor who deals with very significant struggles and hurts on a daily basis. Furman speaks with unique authority on this subject, and therefore this book will mightily help pastors, church leaders, family members, friends, and spouses understand what it means to help another who deals with difficult experiences.
Being There coaches us, through the eyes of the hurting, how to help those hurting. And the first step, according to Furman, is admitting your own loss. “Maybe you’ve thought as a Christian you have to smile and pretend to be okay when someone asks you how you are doing. Perhaps you think that if you’re grieving, then you’re dishonoring God. This isn’t so” (23). Dave’s wife Gloria said that doing so doesn’t minimize the pain, but does minimize the hope the gospel brings to our hearts (151). I appreciated these comments because often this is the case in my own life. I have to remember that grief itself isn’t a sinful, or negative thing. Once we admit this, we can learn how to begin walking with those who are hurting.
I also appreciated Furman’s commitment to calling the helper to holiness. We, as helpers, have to be walking with God, not just calling the hurting to do so. If we don’t put the oxygen mask on ourselves first before helping the hurting, “pretty soon all your work will be in your own strength, and eventually, you will break down” (34). In our intent to be an anchor and stronghold for those hurting, we cannot neglect our own need to be personally strengthened.
From Chapter 3 on, Furman’s book gets much more ground-level and practical. He talks about the importance of sharing hope with others, serving, listening, prayer, and having hard conversations, among other tips for how we are to be there for one another. I think my favorite practical component of the book was Chapter 8, “Whatever You Do, Don’t Do These Things.” Furman encourages us to avoid becoming a fixer, justifying situations with comparison, shaping their identity by their circumstances, and offering generalized help. These tips and more were so helpful. Furman knows that these things oftentimes don’t help after all.
In the afterword, Dave’s wife Gloria offers her own reflections on what it means to be a helper in the midst of hurting. Gloria is also a gifted writer like Dave, and her stories and wisdom are so helpful in tying the book’s contents altogether.
I’m grateful for Dave’s unique offering to this important subject and I think it will be very helpful for years to come in discipling folks to learn how to be there when others hurt. Humans are complex, but the gospel makes our job as helpers simple.