What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Suffering

It’s been said that if you minister to hurting people, you will never lack an audience.

But one of the things I believe we need to equip Christians with is how to love and care for hurting people. Christians are no different than most people, in that they feel uncomfortable around people who are suffering, and desperately want to make it all better. But as those who have been called to be salt and light in the world, I think we should be prepared and equipped to minister to those around us who are hurting – whether they be neighbors or people we are in community with at church.

In the video above, these pastors talk about what not to say to people who are suffering. A lot of people, because they feel that they should say something, and they want so bad to give a solution and fix the problem and alleviate the pain, say things which aren’t actually helpful. I have been on the receiving end of a few of these before: things like “I know what you’re going through” – “everything’s going to be fine” – and other things people say to try to quickly restore happiness.

But as the pastors mention towards the end of the video: the Gospel is big enough to handle our pain and to accept that tragedies happen and they are bad. The Gospel doesn’t shy away from the blood and guts of the reality of life in a fallen world. The Gospel is also big enough to give hope in the most dire circumstances by pointing to the ultimate happy ending that belongs to those who have been redeemed in Jesus.

Question: What is the most helpful thing someone has said to you or done for you during a difficult time in your life?

I want to hear your thoughts! Comment below!

3 thoughts on “What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Suffering

  1. i had a best friend that would give me a great big loving hug and cry with me, but that is not something that just anyone can do because there are trust issues and being able to allow someone to touch me without feel invaded. It seems to me that i have had times in deep despair and a friend would hug me and say something like “i am here for you.” But i could also see it in their eyes and know they meant it. This is something that ministers cannot manufacture at will, it is an organic movement build from love and trust. i have not met many ministers that have been helpful, in fact more hurtful.
    i am not perfect, we have all said something stupid to those in pain. It can be an uncomfortable situation. The best i can do sometime is say that i am here for you and mean it.

    1. Thanks for the comment. What I have found is that avoiding the situation and not addressing it is one of the worst things you can do – but we must avoid the tendency to minimize feelings or to offer trite answers and quick solutions. Being present is important; I’ve been on the receiving end of that as well.

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