Have you ever wondered what to say when you’re face-to-face with another person’s pain?
Ever been speechless when speaking to someone who is suffering? Or maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of some well-intended but insensitive comments like these:
“I know just how you feel.” You don’t. Plus, this shifts attention to you, not them.
“God will give you another child.” This is insensitive.
“God must have needed him in heaven.” This feels empty.
“God told me that he’ll heal you.” Really?
“Time heals all wounds.” Not always.
“God must be trying to teach you something.” This is patronizing and arrogant.
“If you do what I did then you’ll be better.” Who made you the expert?
“My aunt Mildred had the same problem … .” Every situation is different. Mildred doesn’t matter to the hurting person at that moment.
Our maxims and cute sayings to those who are suffering are not only empty, they can be excruciating.
Friends, let’s resist trying to “package people’s pain.” Let’s cut out the clichés and jettison the jargon.
In Job 2:11-13, we learn that three friends come to comfort Job in his pain. They do a number of things right—at least at the beginning.
Here are some lessons we can learn from this passage to help us help others when they’re going through tough times.
Hear the hurting.
Job’s friends “heard about all the troubles that had come upon him.” The first step for us is to actually listen when someone is speaking so that we pick up on their problems. When you hear that another person is in pain, write it down so you can follow-up.
Sacrifice your schedule.
The next thing they do is “set out from their homes.” If we’re going to care for the hurting, we’re going to have to sacrifice our schedule. If we wait to care until it’s convenient, it will never happen.
Partner with people.
Catch what happens next—they “met together by agreement.” It’s always a good idea to take someone with you when you hear of a need.
Go with grace.
Their goal was to go “and sympathize with him.” This is the word “nud” in Hebrew, which means to rock back and forth. When people go through tremendous pain, they often rock themselves back and forth—we’re to join them in that.