There are many dangers and harmful temptations in this noble work. The one that men seem to be most tempted by is our propensity to try and solve, not listen in those moments with a suffering saint. Most of us have learned this painful lesson from the gift of marriage.
Marriage is a wonderful gift from God that teaches us many things about ourselves and about men and women in general. One such thing is the striking difference in the ways that men and women deal with problems. Men oftentimes want to conquer and solve, while women want to be loved and nurtured. Since men are notorious for trying to solve problems, we men need to learn a valuable lesson that our wives have so patiently tried to teach us. As helpful as our problem-solving gift is to our families, we must know when to utilize it and when to suppress it. Caring for our sick or suffering brothers and sisters in Christ is one of the times to suppress it. In the discomfort of the moment, we can often find ourselves explaining in a thoughtful three-part thesis to a precious soul who is either lying in a hospital bed or pouring his heart out to us over coffee, how God is going to use this affliction in his life. This is neither loving nor pastoral. David Dickson (19th century Scottish pastor) gives us a helpful alternative:
In cases of sudden and severe affliction, we may be able to do little more than weep with them that weep (Romans 12:15), giving that afflicted some word from the merciful and faithful High Priest, and perhaps taking hold of the sufferer’s hand—an act of sympathy that often has a wonderful power to calm and soothe in times of deep distress.
Much like our wives, we need simply to listen and love. Too few words are much more profitable in these scenarios than too many. Those suffering from affliction and sickness will feel more loved by us if we sympathize, not rationalize. Therefore, listen, don’t solve.
Now, go thank your patient wife for loving you enough to have taught this to you. If you are learning this for the first time from this post…no thanks required.