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 such as:
"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.
Job 2:11-13 gives us some lessons for helping people through tough times. Lessons include: Hear the hurting; sacrifice your schedule; partner with people; go with grace; come with comfort; expect a change in appearance; exhibit your emotions; respond with rituals; and honor with humility.
Other lessons are: Sit with the sufferer; take the time needed; and be silent in the face of suffering.
We could summarize these caregiver guidelines this way: Show up and shut up. Don't stay away and when you come, silence may be better than speech. Incidentally, if you can't visit, a phone call, email, text, a note on Facebook or a card in the mail is the next best thing.
The Rev. Brian Bill is senior pastor at Edgewood Baptist Church in Rock Island, and part of a rotating series of columnists for Faith & Values. He and can be reached at edgewoodbaptist.net.
Rock island, IL Details
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