Why God’s Will is Like a Freeway

Why God’s Will is Like a Freeway

As a pastor, one of the most common questions I receive from people is, “How can I know if this decision I need to make is God’s will or not?”

And I almost always reply, “Tell me what God’s will looks like to you.”

Most of the time, the answers sound similar: “Well, I know that God has a perfect plan for my life. I’m just terrified to make a decision that isn’t a part of that perfect plan. So how do I know if what I’m about to do is the right decision or the wrong one?”

After all, Jeremiah 29:11 says, “’For I know the plan I have for you,’ declares the Lord.” Right?


It actually says, “’For I know the planS I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘planS to prosper you and not to harm you, planS to give you hope and a future.’”

Let’s set aside the argument that this verse should only be applied to its original context with the People of Israel, and make the assumption that it can still apply to our lives today. Notice that there isn’t just one plan; there are multiple planS. I do not think this is unintentional. Also notice that those multiple plans do not spell out specific details, but rather point toward a desired outcome or end-goal.

This verse took on new light for me when I heard a brilliant man named Reuben Welch explain the will of God as being “less like a single beam of light and more like a spectrum of options.”

I’ve taken that idea and formed a metaphor that I like to share with those people who come to me with this question:

Think of God’s will as being less like a single-lane road and more like a multi-lane freeway. Instead of having one lane that you are always trying to stay in, terrified that you might accidentally stray from it, God’s will might be more accurately portrayed as a multi-lane freeway, with several options to choose from, all heading in the same direction.

As long as you’re on the right freeway, heading in the right direction, you can find comfort that you are “in God’s will.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared that metaphor with someone and witnessed an instant sigh of relief. Although there are times in life when we think it would be easier if God could just show us the single lane that God has designed for us to be in, I’m not sure that’s how God works. I believe God gives us choices and says, “Take your pick. These seven lanes are all good. They’re all heading in the right direction.”

You can extend the metaphor in many ways. For example, there are other freeways, travelling in a variety of “wrong” directions, and they are constantly tempting us to “take a detour.” Or, I had someone once say, “I think there are also pilot cars that God puts in your life to help make sure you are travelling in the right direction.” There are also times when the traffic gets bad, and life forces you to slow down, and times when you speed up and change lanes over and over.

Take it where you will, but the bottom line is this: If you’re in a pastor’s office asking, “How can I know if this decision I need to make is God’s will or not?” chances are, you’re probably already closer than you think.

We Need to Talk

We Need to Talk

The room fell silent as soon as a 91-year-old man finished his highly prejudiced description of the picture that used to come to his mind every time he would hear the word, “Muslim.”

That was when I learned that a completely silent room could become even more silent than silent.

He continued his story, “But I’ve got to tell you—since my wife passed away several years ago, the only family in my neighborhood that has been consistently nice to me are my next door neighbors, who just happen to be Muslim. And it’s got me thinkin’, ‘If there can be nice Muslims in this world, then there’s got to be all sorts of nice people from different cultures and backgrounds that I don’t know about because I’ve never met ‘em.’”

That was when the room went from “pin-drop silence” to “speck-of-dust-drop silence.”

All 30 of us in that mid-week Bible study knew that what we had just heard was the truth, and we all recognized the fact that each one of us had been guilty of the same thing.

Take your pick. Choose your “those people.” We all have them. If you can’t think of who your “those people” are right away, then just think a little harder.

The reason we all have “those people” in our lives is not necessarily because we don’t like them; it’s because we don’t know them. Knowing “those people” changes them from “those people” to REAL people. But far too often we simply choose to remain comfortable in our boxes of unfamiliarity, boxes that lead to us form caricatures and inaccurate assumptions about who “those people” are and why they act they way they do.

Matthew 5:23-24 tells us to refrain from worshipping until we’ve settled our differences with our neighbor, or with “those people.” How do we settle those differences? By talking.

As basic as this sounds, we need to talk.

How are disputes in a marriage settled? By talking.

How do next-door neighbors decide how to split the cost of a new fence? By talking.

How do countries reach agreements and form treaties? By talking.

And yet, as simple as it seems, talking with people is not naturally our first reaction when we don’t understand the actions of “those people.”

“But people might see me talking to them!”

“But they might not want to talk.”

“But what if they really are like the prejudiced caricature of them I’ve painted in my mind?”

Those questions didn’t seem to bother Jesus. Over and over, Jesus was criticized for associating with “those people.” In fact, Jesus spent way more time with the people who were cast aside by society than he did with the “in crowd.” And in doing so, Jesus introduced the Kingdom of God by destroying the imaginary divisions that separate groups of real people from other groups of real people, one conversation at a time.

Lord, that we might do the same! Give us the courage to break the mold of comfort. Guide us into encounters with people who are vastly differently from us. Open our eyes to your image on the face of every person we are privileged to meet in this world. And fill our mouths with conversations that break down barriers.

So, the next time you find yourself tempted to judge “those people,” begin by asking yourself, “Do I even know any of ‘those people?’ Have we talked?” After all, “there’s got to be all sorts of nice people from different cultures and backgrounds that [we] don’t know about because [we’ve] never met ‘em.”

The Power of a Little Hand

Blessing of Teachers

I can’t get over this image.

This past Sunday at Table of Grace we had a “blessing of the backpacks.” I invited teachers, school administrators, crossing guards, cafeteria workers, and everyone else involved in our school systems to come forward to be commissioned into this new school year. As they gathered on the stage, I invited the children to surround them on the floor level.

I then asked those who were comfortable doing so to extend a hand of blessing toward the stage as I prayed over the school employees. Within our context, this act isn’t something that is practiced often, so it stands outside the comfort zone of many of our church members.

When I saw this picture after the service, I was humbled.

At the bottom of the photo is a child, with her hand in the air, actively participating in the blessing of these school employees in a physical way that was visible to those around her.

My sermon on Sunday was about Apollos, from Acts 18, and the lessons that we can glean from his example of humility. If you recall, Apollos humbly receives instruction from Priscilla and Aquila, immediately after preaching in the synagogue “with great fervor.”

What was inspiring about Apollos was his willingness to be corrected when he thought he was preaching correctly. He didn’t question Priscilla’s teaching; he took it to heart and changed his message to include the truth of Jesus Christ about which she told him.

Humility opened Apollos to instruction.

When I saw this image of this little hand in the air, blessing her teachers and school employees, I couldn’t help but think of the humility that was being displayed.

What would it look like for adults to bless those who are placed in authority over us?

What would it look like for us to humbly open ourselves to instruction on a daily basis?

How might we extend our hand in faith as we pray for those who lead us—whether we agree with them all of the time, or rarely?


Grant me the grace to be humble, even when I think I’m right,

The openness to daily instruction, even when it stretches me,

The faith to pray for those who lead me, even when I disagree,

And the courage to participate boldly, even when my hand stands alone.

Outside-In vs. Inside-Out Thinking in Churches


Since my last blog post, “The Savannah House—A Missional Experiment in Plano, TX,” I’ve received several comments about my thoughts on “Inside-Out vs. Outside-In Thinking.” In that post, I wrote these words:

Far too many churches suffer from an addiction to outside-in thinking. They look at what other churches have found successful and they try to mirror those same practices in their own context. Often, when the practices fail, they are left scratching their heads, asking, “Why did it work for them, but not for us?”

Outside-in thinking leads to burnout. Rarely will your church live up to the success that another church had with its own program.

Inside-out thinking, however, asks, “How is God calling us to uniquely live out the gospel in our particular context?” Like missionaries in foreign cultures, each ministry approach is most effective when it is organically shaped by the context in which it exists.

I have to give credit to Dr. Ryan Bolger, at Fuller Theological Seminary, for introducing me to this concept, particularly as it pertains to ministry in the church. I’d like to briefly expand on the impact this concept should have on the way we strategize and shape our ministries.

Many churches today begin to see decline in their weekly attendance and they think, “Uh oh, we’ve got a problem.” They desire to find a “miracle solution” that will fix it. The truth is, ministry in the 21st century is a lot messier than just a set of problem/solution formulas. There are no “one-size-fits-all” answers to reverse the changing realities of religion in the United States (which is why every “How to Really Bring Millennials Back to Church” article drives me crazy).

When we do look for those outside answers to our inside problems, we find ourselves trying to put on clothes that just don’t fit. Then we get frustrated that a church in a completely different context “looks so good” wearing the clothes that we think should fit us the same way.

It’s not that easy.

But here’s the good news: Your church is God’s church.

There is a reason God has gathered the particular people who make up your community of faith. I believe that any gathering of God’s people is one of the greatest gifts of God’s love we will experience in this life.

If that’s the case, then, God cares about your church. God is alive and active in your church. God has a purpose for your church—and that purpose is unique.

This is where inside-out thinking needs to replace outside-in thinking. Rather than borrowing strategies and goals from the outside and trying to make them fit your church, the first step should be an internal examination of the gifts and resources that God has placed in your lap.

Maybe your church thinks it should start a contemporary service, but you have absolutely no one in your congregation who enjoys contemporary worship music. Then it’s probably not a good fit.

Maybe your church thinks it should purchase a larger pipe organ to attract people who are impressed by that type of thing, but you don’t have the funds to make the purchase and your only organist is that lady who plays like a 3rd grader trying to learn to type with one finger at a time. Then it’s probably not a good fit.

Maybe your church thinks it should continue doing the same exact outreach events it has been doing for the past 20 years, even though they attract only 20% of the people they used to engage. Then it’s probably no longer a good fit.

In the same way churches tend toward outside-in thinking with other churches’ strategies and programs, churches can also get stuck participating in outside-in thinking with their own pasts.

Inside-out thinking, on the other hand, recognizes that our church—today—looks different than it ever has, and exists in a context that it never has. When we begin with the unique gifts that God has given us today in the context in which we exist today, then we open ourselves to the unique ways that God is stirring within us—and only us—to live faithfully as God’s people in our unique situation.

It’s time to stop wearing someone else’s clothes, and instead, ask God to clothe you with the wardrobe that God has designed specifically for your community of faith. When you do, you’ll find yourself with more life and energy than you ever knew you had. Instead of failing at being something that you aren’t—or failing at being something that you used to be—you’ll find yourself thriving because it just seems so natural. That’s when you know it’s the right fit.

The Savannah House- A Missional Experiment in Plano, TX

Today marks the beginning of a grand experiment–an experiment for the Kingdom of God, an experiment in doing ministry in the 21stcentury.
Far too many churches suffer from an addiction to outside-in thinking.  They look at what other churches have found successful and they try to mirror those same practices in their own context.  Often, when the practices fail, they are left scratching their heads, asking, “Why did it work for them, but not for us?”

Outside-in thinking leads to burnout.  Rarely will your church live up to the success that another church had with its own program.

Inside-out thinking, however, asks, “How is God calling us to uniquely live out the gospel in our particular context?”  Like missionaries in foreign cultures, each ministry approach is most effective when it is organically shaped by the context in which it exists.

Our grand experiment at Christ United Methodist Church here in Plano, TX is asking the question, “What does it mean to live missionally in our backyard?”  How might we take our particular context seriously?  In a day when fewer and fewer people are choosing to make church attendance a regular part of their lives, how might we reach our neighbors on their turf (instead of waiting for them to come onto ours)?

The Savannah House has emerged as a result of these questions. 
With a grant from the Young Clergy Initiative of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church, we are moving three residents into an upscale, 3-bedroom apartment here in Plano.  We recognize that, as Christians, we are called to address issues of brokenness and injustice in the world.  Sometimes that brokenness and injustice gets overlooked in upscale settings because we are quick to assume that “they’ve got it all together.”

The Savannah House residents have three goals:

1) To live in covenant community with one another, following a Rule of Life together, as they encourage each other in their ministry discernment processes. 
2) To seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they engage in creative opportunities to live hospitably as “urban missionaries” in the context of their apartment community. 
3) To gain local church experience by interning in a variety of capacities at Christ United Methodist Church (determined by their passions and interests).

The Savannah House gains its name from the “failed” missionary exploits of John Wesley to Savannah, Georgia.  Two observations that Wesley noted in his journal as he left Savannah helped shape the vision of the Savannah House: 1) He admitted that his preconceived evangelistic strategies were deemed ineffective by such a radical change in context (outside-in versus inside-out thinking) and 2) As Wesley reflected on his time in Georgia he wrote: “I, who went to America to convert others, was never myself converted.” As a part of the Young Clergy Initiative, one of the goals for the residents is to experience the life-transforming power of God as they discern where God is leading them.

Christ UMC has partnered with the Epworth Project of the Missional Wisdom Foundation in an effort to glean as much wisdom as possible from their vast experience of intentional living communities.  The Missional Wisdom Foundation also has an excellent, established system of spiritual guidance that includes a community Abbott, Prior, Spiritual Directors and Coaches, and a host of team members to assist the residents of the Savannah House as they grow deeper in their faith.

Do we know exactly what this will look like one-year from now?  No.

Do we have specific ministry strategies in place?  No.

Do we know that this will even work?  No.

But today, as we move our residents into the Savannah House, we’re choosing to trust that it is God who has stirred this vision within us.

And God usually has pretty good ideas. 

Dresses and Air-Balls: Logical Humility in a Black-and-White World

Two weeks ago it was a dress.  Some people claimed it was blue and black; others claimed it was white and gold.  So, who was right?

This afternoon it was a basketball shot.  Some people claimed it was goal-tending and celebrated the victory; others claimed it was an air-ball and mourned the loss.  So, who was right?
In both cases, the arguments played out all over the internet, on television, around water coolers and in living rooms.  Like most debates in contemporary society, everyone becomes an instant expert, offering their opinions verbally and digitally through such logically-persuasive means as the ever-conclusive “meme.” 
So, was the dress blue and black or was it white and gold?  And what about that shot?  Did the referee make the correct call by calling it goal-tending or was it clearly going to be an air-ball had it not been touched?
But what do we do with “yes?”  We don’t like “yes.”  We want an answer.  Either it’s true or it’s false, right?  Not always.
Without going too deep into a conversation about Aristotelian logic, the fallacy of the excluded middle, or what “fuzzy logic” is, I simply want to point out that there are times in life when “truth” is not as black and white as we would like it be (or as black and white as those guys who wear the black and white stripes would like it to be!).  Often, we find ourselves in situations that are messier than the categories that we’ve set up to understand our experience.  When we can’t fit the grey experiences of life into our black and white boxes, it leads to frustration and anxiety.
What if we learned to become comfortable with the fact that sometimes life offers two (or more) equally valid experiences or options?  Imagine the potential for political progress if politicians would legitimately acknowledge the valid aspects of opposing perspectives!  Unfortunately, the alternative with which we currently live is a system of black-and-white in which a politician is either completely in favor or vehemently opposed, forced by the dominance of the two-party system that predetermines an individual’s platform as soon as they declare themselves a member of this party or that.
Is it easy to consider a reality in which multiple truths may be simultaneously offered? No, because it requires humility.  How can I admit that someone else is right when I know that I am right?
Does this mean that there are not times in life when things are black and white?  Of course not.  In fact, the “greyness” of life may even constitute a minority of our experiences.  The danger of viewing the majority of life through a filter of grey is that it leads to a path of relativism, losing any notion of right and wrong all together.  
In most cases, people can generally agree on the colors of dresses.  In most cases, it’s generally clear whether a basketball goes through a hoop or not.  But we do damage to ourselves and to each other when we view all cases like “most cases” rather than viewing all cases as unique.  
Opening myself to the possibility that the person with whom I disagree may be equally right in their opinion fosters a healthy relationship of respect and vulnerability.  Imagine the impact that this type of logical humility could have in a family, in a workplace, in a neighborhood, in a church, or in a society.
Now, if only I could convince the NCAA to recognize the validity of my opinion that the UCLA shot was clearly an air-ball, maybe they could at least create a rematch…  #PonyUp

Lessons From a Warthog: What a Zoo Taught Me About Judgment

This past week we celebrated Emily’s 2ndbirthday.  It’s been a great week with family in town, and cake and ice cream and presents.  Emily has been beside herself with excitement all week—it really has been the cutest thing.

She was particularly cute on Thursday when we visited the Dallas Zoo.  She had been to the zoo once before, but it was when her older cousin was visiting, when she was only a few months old.  So this was the first time that she had been to the zoo while she was really old enough to name all the animals and make their sounds and really know what was going on.

And she absolutely loved it.  
Each animal we saw brought a big smile to her face.  That sense of fascination and child-like wonder was in full display, and it was quite incredible.  
The cool part was, it really didn’t matter what the animal was; she loved it.  Granted, she had her favorites, but mainly because those were the ones that she was most familiar with from books and stuff.
For the most part, though, every animal she saw was as fascinating as the last.
She even liked the animals that weren’t officially part of the zoo!  Like when we were all standing at the flamingo display, trying to get her to look at the bright pink flamingos that were standing 30 feet away from us, she was fascinated by the little ordinary, brown duck that just happened to be sitting five feet in front of us.
Or when we were watching the gorillas in their habitat—which is one of my favorites—she saw a squirrel running around and was immediately glued to every move that the squirrel made.
In my experience as an adult at the zoo, I’ve already set up categories in my mind: which animals I want to see, which animals I don’t care about, which animals are beautiful and fascinating, and which animals are not.
For example, have you seen the Red River Warthog at the Dallas Zoo?  This thing was crazy looking.  I looked at the thing and and found myself thinking, “Wow, what was God thinking when he designed that guy??”
And just when I thought it couldn’t get worse than the warthog we came across the giant anteater.  I mean, really.  Look at it.
But did Emily care?  Of course not.  The only thing she would have cared about was whether it was awake or asleep, whether it was putting on a show by simply moving, or it was sitting still.
Did she know these animals were ugly?  Not unless I told her they were.  To a child, they we were just as fascinating as the last.  But to me, they were definitely placed in the category of ugly and crazy.
Unfortunately, it’s not much different than what we do with each other, is it?  We have this natural tendency to create categories.  We place each other in boxes of predetermined categories that limit the opportunities we give to one another based on preconceived judgments.  Even before meeting a someone and learning their story, we’ve judged them into a box.  
The real danger emerges when we pass on those prejudices to our children.  Emily doesn’t know that the Red River Warthog is “ugly” because I never told her it was.  To her, it’s a fascinating animal.  In the same way, the categories our children begin to form for other human beings are shaped the influence of the adults in their lives.  
Who are the people we deem “ugly” or “less-than” or “unlovable” or “crazy?”  And how are we passing on our own prejudices to the next generation?  
Instead, what would it look like if we learned from our children–if we looked at all of God’s creatures with the same benefit of a doubt with which Emily looked at all of the animals at the zoo?

Unboxing Worship

At Table of Grace we are currently in a sermon series called “Unboxed” where we are identifying the various ways we place limits on God.  This past Sunday we discussed some of the boxes of worship that have the tendency to form.

The Box of Style:Some of us grew up in traditional worship services, some of grew up in charismatic worship services, some of us grew up in contemporary worship services, and some of us didn’t grow up in church at all.  What does this mean?  Well, it means that we all have different perspectives and preferences based on our own traditions and backgrounds.
Sometimes we get in “worship wars” because we think that one style of worship must be superior or more effective than another.  But really all we’ve done is formed a box.
The Box of Time: Some of us have preferences about when worship should occur.  Should it happen on Saturdays?  Should it happen on Sundays? Should it happen at 11:00 AM or maybe at 6:00 PM?
And we begin to form another box.
The Box of Quality:Sometimes the box we form has to do with the quality of worship.  We set benchmarks and expectations, and if a certain worship experience doesn’t meet that bar, then it’s worthless because we check out.  We’ve formed another box.
Style. Time. Quality.
Do you see what each of these boxes has in common? Each of these boxes is formed when we become the center of worship, and not God.
When we’re the center of worship, the style of worship has to meet my needs.
When we’re the center of worship, the time of worship has to meet my needs.
When we’re the center of worship, the quality of worship has to meet my needs.
But what about God?  Where is God in all of this?
When God is the center of the worship, the style doesn’t matter.  If it’s honoring God, and engaging God’s people in community, then it’s working.
When God is the center of worship, the time doesn’t matter.  In fact, when worship is honoring God, then it’s not confined to just one hour every Sunday.  Worship becomes a lifestyle in which we offer our bodies as living sacrifices that are pleasing to our Creator, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
When God is the center of worship, the quality doesn’t matter.  Hear me out on this.  There’s a fine line between the pursuit of excellence—giving God the best we have to offer with the gifts that God has given to us—and the vain judgment that occurs when we say, “This isn’t good enough for me to truly worship.”  
We get so into habit of comparison that we’ve lost sight of a theology of enough.  When we compare ourselves to what other churches are doing, or we compare ourselves to what has happened in our churches in the past, we blind ourselves to the new things that God is doing right here, right now.
Am I saying we should stop striving to improve and become more and more excellent in our worship?  No, not at all.  Think of it like a human being who is trying to become more and more mature, and is trying to become the best person he/she can be.  Just because you are trying to become better doesn’t mean that you aren’t currently   We can always get better.  But we’re also always good enough today.

perfect, just the way you are.

What would happen if we truly made God the center of our worship?  It might not always be comfortable and familiar, because it might mean having to experience a new kind of worship that is outside our preferred box.  

But it’s often in the moments when we aren’t as comfortable as we’d like to be that God surprises us and moves us in new ways.


What Your Eating Style May Reveal about Your Faith

I’ve found that most people I know fall into one of three categories when it comes to their style of eating.

  1. The Smorgasborder: This person has and will eat anything.  And anything they’ve ever tried is immediately declared as “the BEST thing I have EVER tasted!”
  2. The Sensible One: This person will try almost anything once, but they have the sense to admit when they don’t enjoy a particular taste. 
  3. The Predetermined Palate: This person knows exactly what they like to eat.  They will never try anything new because they’ve already decided that they won’t like it.

I’m sure there are sub-categories between these, but you get the idea.  And I bet you can probably identify your own eating style quite easily (as well as the eating style of your friends and family).
Interestingly, these same categories are quite effective in describing different styles of faith.  Think about it:

  1. The Smorgasborder: This person has and will try any belief.  And anything they’ve ever heard or experienced is immediately declared as “the BEST thing I have EVER heard/experienced!”
  2. The Sensible One: This person will expose themselves to many different beliefs, but they have the sense to admit when they don’t agree with a particular idea.
  3. The Predetermined Palate: This person knows exactly what they believe.  They will never entertain any new idea because they’ve already decided that they won’t agree with it.

Now, I can’t really claim that there is any direct correlation between a person’s eating style and a person’s style of faith, but I sure wouldn’t be surprised if there were.
As easy as it is to identify ourselves on the scale of eating styles, it might be more difficult to admit where we fall in the categories of faith.
Throughout Scripture we see God acting in ways that constantly surprise people and open people’s eyes to new ways of life.  More often than not, those who felt they had God figured out were the ones who were humbled by God.
While smorgasbording and having a predetermined palate might be okay when it comes to eating, both extremes become dangerous when it comes to faith.  My prayer is that God would continually convict me toward the middle, toward that place of tension that exists between blindly accepting every idea I ever encounter and stubbornly holding on to those in which I find familiarity and comfort.
This is what it means to live intensionally.

The Two Most Powerful Words in the World

In seminary I took a class on theology and film.  It was one my favorite classes because it brought the academic rigor of theology down to the real life issues portrayed in films.  Films today have the power to communicate like nothing else we have.  They are arguably our most prominent form of storytelling.

Some of us like movies that remove us from our own experience—movies where we can pretend to be the main character, even though the storyline is so far from real life.  Those movies usually end up leaving us with a feeling of happiness, or heroism, or with the idea that all of sudden we now have the ability to jump our cars over drawbridges or something else crazy like that!
Those movies suspend reality—they draw us out of our own experiences.
But then there are the films that drive us straight into the experiences of our life. These films are usually a bit more artistically directed, and don’t necessarily require a huge budget for special effects or high paid actors and actresses.  But we love them because we connect to them.  They don’t necessarily make us feel happy, or heroic, but by portraying part of our story, they have this way of letting us know that we’re not alone in our pain.
Oftentimes, movies like this don’t even try to answer the “why” question.  In fact, if there were a nice, neat reason for whatever tragedy occurred in the movie, it would make the entire film seem that much less believable.  But becauseof the tragedy, and because of the raw emotion, and because of the messiness, we are drawn into this type of movie because it connects with our own experience.  
It doesn’t have to answer the question, “Why?” and yet it still make us feel better because we know what we aren’t alone.
In one of the most viewed TED talks online, researcher Brene Brown says that the two most powerful words in the world are, “Me too.”  
Me too.  When someone tells us the words, “Me too,” we are immediately drawn out of our loneliness and connected to someone by a mutual experience.  
And I think, in a way, we connect to these tragic films because they artistically portray those two words: “Me too.”
Sometimes, the most powerful words you can say to a friend in the midst of a tragic experience are not those that try to answer the question, “Why?” but are simply those two words that provide the profound gift of empathy: “Me too.”