Sometimes keeping up with our friends and family can bring great joy. Sometimes, it can leave us heartbroken at some circumstances they are facing. The loss of a father, a family murdered, a son who committed suicide, a mother facing a diagnosis of an aggressive tumor that is threatening to take her life. These were a few of the things just this week that I became aware of in the lives of some of my friends, acquaintances and in our community.
When we come face to face with tragedy or suffering, it’s very difficult to know what to say and how to act. It can be pretty awkward sometimes. We want to say something that will offer them hope, bring comfort, but these overwhelming situations can paralyze us. Often in our zeal to bring comfort, we speak careless words we have heard before without thought of if they will truly bring comfort.
A recent article shared some great, practical advice on how to be a blessing when we face others in the midst of a trial.
What not to say if you’re visiting someone in the hospital, talking to someone who lost a loved one or is dealing with a tragedy:
1. “It could have been worse.”
I know it could have been worse, but that doesn't help my pain right now. Don’t minimize the situation.
2. “It’s God’s will.”
As a Christian, I know that, and I’m kind of processing that right now. I’m a little confused about that now and maybe just a bit mad at God about it too.
3. “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
Maybe not, but it sure feels like it. (Besides, the truth is, God DOES give us more than WE can handle. WE don’t have the strength to handle most of the awful things that happen. That is why God carries us through those awful times.)
4. “Maybe you have sin in your life.”
Yep, and who doesn't? If that’s the way God worked, we would all have cancer, bury loved ones or die ourselves. I’m so glad that God isn't like that.
5. “The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
Same as above.
6. “You need more faith.”
How much faith is “enough faith?” I thought there was something in the Bible that said you need faith like a mustard seed. That’s pretty small, if you ask me.
So what SHOULD you say, or do?
It’s ok to admit that you don’t know what to say.
“I don’t know what to say. I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. I’m so sorry that you’re hurting. I just want you to know that I care about you and am here to share your pain.”
Keep these guidelines in mind:
- Pray more, Preach Less. Prayer is SO powerful.
- Listen More, Talk Less.
- Give hugs, hold their hands. (If they like that sort of thing).
Instead of saying “If there’s anything I can do, just let me know. I’m here for you, no matter what.” That’s very sweet, but most people won’t call you up to ask for help. It’s uncomfortable and we all want to be independent, not needy. Besides, nobody knows what you would actually be willing to do.
Here’s what to do. Be practical and SUGGEST what you are willing to do.
- “Is it ok if I come by and bring you dinner one night?”
- “Can I babysit your kids so you can catch your breath?”
- Give gift certificates to a restaurant, the hospital cafeteria, a grocery store, a gas station, etc., depending on the situation.
- Organize prayer chains/Manage Calls.
Be purposeful to be an encouragement. Don’t be afraid to step up into that awkwardness and extend your care. We are not meant to deal with our pain alone. As Christians, God has shed His love, grace and mercy into our lives, that we may in turn extend it to others. He is with us as we share, He is able to give to our hurting friends exactly what they need. May we be a vessel for Him to flow through!