Book Review: Being There, by Dave Furman
Dave Furman, Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting. Crossway, 2016. 176 pps. $12.99.
Dave Furman has written a helpful little book for the church. Being There is just what it sounds like—a how-to manual to care for the hurting. It may seem like this is unnecessary for Christians, what with the gospel and the indwelling Spirit and all that, but Dave has lived through suffering in the first person so he writes from the perspectives of the both a sufferer and one who has caused suffering in others.
TWO SURPRISING ELEMENTS
There are two things about this book that are very unique. One is the first chapter. Dave’s opening remarks address the suffering experienced by caregivers and others around the sufferer. When I picked up the boo, this isn’t what I expected. But having lived through some of that myself, I’m so glad to see the topic addressed. Too often, the faithful spouses, family members, and friends of those suffering never have their experiences addressed. But that’s precisely where gospel balm can be applied.
Here’s a preview of what he has to say on this topic:
We must remember to love those who are hurting not because they’ve done anything for us, but because of what Jesus has already done for us. You will get the strength to help the hurting only when you understand what God has done for you in the gospel. (35)
Your strength to care for the hurting comes directly from Christ. You have no hope to truly help the hurting if you are disconnected from Christ, the vine. (38)
You must be much with Christ before you are anything for anybody else. (40)
The book’s second big surprise was its second to last chapter: “Whatever You Do, Don’t Do These Things.” Simply put, this chapter is brilliant.
Dave gives a kind of Top Ten List of stupid things people do and say for the hurting. Most of these are not new, but it floors me how often these same bad moves get played. I’m thrilled to have a comprehensive list to hand out to the church, especially to new or aspiring elders, to say, “Don’t do these things and you are 80% of the way there to helping the suffering.”
NOT A GRIPE SESSION
That said, I don’t want to make it sound like the book is a big gripe session. Dave writes in a winsome style because he’s a winsome guy with pastoral sensibilities. I feel as though I’m pretty attuned to suffering and disability, but even after the third time I forgot Dave can’t shake hands, he still reminded me with a big grin and an invitation for a hug.
That may not sound like much to you, but if you read the book you’ll see how the Lord has applied the gospel to Dave’s life to move him from depression to love, and this in the context of authentic Christian friendships. That that ends, he writes:
People suffering with pain, depression, or loss will be pressed in ways they’ve never been pressed before. Naturally, their sin will show itself. It’s not an excuse, but they will need faithful friends who will be committed to the well-being of their souls by rebuking them in love. Help your friends know that they need to stay in community and that the cross has already criticized them more than anyone else can. (109)
LOOKING FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH
The fact is, the local church ought to be the one place where the suffering are loved. If we really grasp what Jesus endured for us, we should have an increasing capacity to love the troubled. Not that this is an easy thing. No one said anything about easy, but Jesus did talk a lot about dying to self.
When we serve those who are depressed, disabled, handicapped, and hurting, we’re going to have to serve without need for recognition or thanksgiving. Our giving of service cannot be dependent on the response we get. Distinctly Christian service must be humble and lowly, and we must aim to honor the Lord if we want to look like Jesus. (74)
To sum it up, we need to learn to simply be there for our suffering friends. Essentially, we need to be Job’s three counsellors before they opened their mouths.
Ask more questions and grow in your understanding of another’s pain rather than offering solutions for something you know very little about. Sometimes the best thing you can do is say, “I’m sorry, can you help me better understand what you are going through?” And then listen. (113)
Oh, for more loving and careful listeners!
If you’re suffering or know a sufferer, buy the book—and give lots of copies away. It will help you and remind you of what is most important as we care for the hurting in our families and churches.