What Not To Say to Those Who Are Suffering

Ed Welch makes a great point on what not to say to those who are suffering. How many times have we said to those who are suffering or had said to us in the midst of our suffering, "If you need anything, please call me--anytime."

He gives the following reasons why this statement is not helpful:

  • If “comforters” knew anything about real hardship, they would know that sufferers usually don’t know what they want or need.
  • If comforters knew anything about the sufferer, they would know what the sufferer wants or needs.
  • If comforters really knew the sufferer, they would know that he or she would never make the call. Never.
The comment is the equivalent of “ta ta, see you later,” “luv ya, call me sometime,” or some other mindless goodbye. The speaker is not giving any real thought to the comforter’s needs and circumstances, and the suffering person knows it.

So what should you say to those who are suffering or what should you do to be helpful?

First, they listen and understand the suffering person. They pick up on to-do lists that are growing and impossible. They identify tasks that are especially important...Next, they do it. They get the dog groomed, do the dishes, drop off a meal, cut the grass, baby sit the kids, bring a meal over and eat it together, clean the house, give a ride to small group, drop off a note of encouragement and then another and another, arrange for a hair cut, and so on.

And in responding in this way, we imitate how God has responded to our suffering:

It is the time you give to creative strategizing that is the power behind these acts. That is unmistakable love that mimics the strategic planning of the triune God’s rescue mission. He planned and acted even before we knew our real needs.

There are many things that the Lord is teaching us through our time of trial and "suffering." But recently, one of them seems to be the Lord teaching us that when we see others suffering, don't wait for them to call you. Run to them and find our what needs to be done and do it. That's what Christ did for us. He didn't wait for us to call out to him and tell him our need. The truth of the matter is that we were so dead in our sins and trespasses that we did not even know we had a need. We were so blind that we did not even know we were blind. Instead, the Lord raced to us from heaven, seeing our great need of a Savior and did what needed to be done, atoning for our sin and giving us His righteousness.

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