We don’t know what to say or do when a friend or relative is suffering. Often our natural response is to recoil, retreat, or respond by trying to lighten the moment, which results in even more pain. Most people don’t intentionally set out to hurt someone who is already hurting, but we’re uncomfortable around someone suffering. No one trains or prepares us to go to the depths of their despair with them. Maybe it’s the fear of time and emotion required if we get involved. We ease our conscience by thinking: She would rather be alone right now anyway. Or he needs his family at a time like this. Or they have so many friends; I know someone will help them. So we do nothing or maybe even avoid them all together.
We may send a card or make a phone call, closing with “I’ll be praying for you,” then go on about our life while his or her life crumbles. Yet the Bible clearly tells us to, “Help each other in troubles and problems. This is the kind of law Christ asks us to obey” (Galatians 6:2 NLV). How can we put that verse into practical terms? What does it truly mean to help each other in troubles and problems?
“A wound that goes unacknowledged and unwept is a wound that cannot heal.” -John Eldredge
From personal experience, and talking to many people in researching three books I wrote on topics of intense suffering—breast cancer, infertility, and parenting prodigals*—I’ve compiled the Top 10 Don'ts When Helping a Sufferer.
“Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.” (Proverbs 12:25 NLT)