Even if you are not personally experiencing suffering or a rough patch in your own life, you can probably think of someone who is going through a hard time. When you see your friend, your co-worker, your loved-one, or even a stranger going through difficulty you probably have the urge to respond in some way. Now the tricky part is figuring out what exactly is the appropriate way to be of help and not a hindrance.
I am going to list out a few practical things of what NOT to do when someone is suffering, and then follow up with what TO do.
What Not to do:
- Don’t be like Job’s friends who acted like they knew better and ultimately came off as judgmental. It is really incredible to read how condescending Job’s friends were and how quick they were to jump to insinuations about Job’s character. It really makes you wonder if they were truly friends to begin with.
- Don’t say that what someone is going through is that person’s fault. Essentially don’t be like Job’s friends who accused Job of sinning. Yes, it is true that when someone sins, that person will have to face the consequences of that mistake. However, not every bad situation stems from a sinful decision.
- Please don’t say, “It could be worse.” Let me tell you something. You have no idea what that other person is going through unless you have lived the exact same situation yourself. For that person, the circumstance that he or she is enduring may be the most difficult thing that this person has had to face. When you say such a statement, it comes off as prideful and condescending, and it ultimately undermines the other person’s experience.
What to do:
- Show compassion! Don’t just jump the gun, but listen and show sympathy.
- Strengthen and comfort them. Just as God comforts us in our time of need, we are called to comfort others. After Job’s friends had their say, Job told them what he would have done for them if the roles had been reversed:
I could strengthen you with my mouth, and the solace of my lips would assuage your pain. | Job 16:5
- Be there for them. Give your time and resources. As bad as Job’s friends were with their “advice,” they did do one thing right and that was being there for Job in his time of need.
And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. | Job 2:13
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. | 1 John 3: 16-18
- Pray and intercede for them. More than words of encouragement or acts of kindness, prayer is the most powerful weapon we have when it comes to helping others. There is so much power in prayer! You have the opportunity to speak directly to God on behalf of others. God listens, and He has the power to move mountains and heal deep wounds.
These are just a few things. I am sure there are so many more, but what is important is that you
pray, act, and speak out of love.
You never know how God can use you in the lives of others. Even in the midst of pain and darkness, maybe you can bring some solace and encouragement.