Some folks are fine with that. They don't want anyone to know. Perhaps they choose to suffer in silence because they have come to believe no one wants to hear about their problems. Maybe they've convinced themselves that, compared to what others may be going through, their difficulties aren't really that big a deal. Others have determined that no one would understand anyway or, worse yet, care.
Then there are those who choose to keep their pain private for fear that people's responses will only make it worse.
One would think that, when it comes to responding to the heartaches of others, Christians, of all people, would get it right; that we would be quick to offer Jesus-like compassion and encouragement, prompting comforting words and helpful actions. That is not often the case.
Perhaps the most common response to those dealing with adversity is, Let me know if you need anything. Christians quite often will also work into the conversation an I’ll pray for you. While these offers may appease the conscience of the giver, they do little to alleviate the sorrow of the receiver.
Some Bible-believing well-wishers quote Scripture verses to those who are hurting which, though they are truthful, are not always helpful. The recipient may be quite familiar with God's promise, "I will never leave you or forsake you." But their heart may not be in a condition to receive it. They feel abandoned and forsaken.
Many potential helpers, out of fear of saying the wrong thing, say nothing. They are uncomfortable talking about troubles like death, disease, divorce, or depression so they not only avoid such issues, they avoid those who may be experiencing them. And those who are hurting are driven even deeper into their pain.
So how might we respond in a more helpful way to those going through painful times? Here are a few suggestions:
- Instead of telling a hurting soul to let us know if he or she needs something, tell them what day we’ll bring dinner over or what afternoon we’ll watch their kids so they can have some time to care for themselves.
- Instead of telling them we’ll pray for them, pray for them right then and there—whether you’re at the funeral home, at church, or at the grocery store. As Bob Goff would say, “When it’s a matter of the heart, the place doesn’t matter.”
- Instead of feeling obligated to say something to them, just be there for them. Sometimes simply holding people in our arms and crying with them communicates God’s love in a more meaningful way than reciting the most enlightening psalm.
The secret to truly helping those who are hurting is really quite simple: We must show them what God's love looks like.
Sometimes we put too much emphasis on words. We try so hard to say just the right thing to help others to feel better, if only for a moment. But in actuality, more often than not, people forget what it said to them in trying times. But they remember who stood by them.
Instead of speaking from our heads and giving them information about God’s love, we must speak from our hearts and show them God’s love. His is a love that is selfless. Tender. Kind. Patient.
God's love is not always expressed in words. But it always shows up.