Sometimes we might be tempted to react to someone’s suffering with thoughtless platitudes.
Here are three examples of offensive things that you should avoid saying to someone in pain.
1. Don’t say, “It could be worse.”
Believe it or not, that’s only the first half of a horrible comment, like, “It could be worse, imagine you broke both legs!” We have weird
ways of encouraging each other. Indeed, everything could be worse and, in this sense, the comment is accurate. But while we are suffering, a comforter adds to that suffering by declaring that it could be worse. Such a comment is totally inconsiderate. God himself would never say or approve of such a thing. God never compares our present suffering to someone else’s or to the worst-case scenario. Never.
Even when the friend in question says such a thing about his own suffering, it does not give us the right to join him. On the other hand, this could well be the occasion to warn him. “Yes, your suffering may not seem as severe as ____’s, but God does not compare your suffering to that of others. “Such comparisons could prevent us from speaking with an open heart before the Lord about this suffering. We might be tempted to dismiss it as mere whining, which it certainly is not.
Therefore, even though things could indeed be worse, it is never appropriate to say such a thing or to let others say so about their situation. God is never indifferent to our difficulties and neither should we be.
2. Avoid saying, “What does God want to teach you through all this? or “God makes all things work together for your good.”
These clichés are biblical in the sense that God indeed teaches us in our suffering and makes all things work together for our good ( Ro 8.28 ). CS Lewis is right to say that suffering is God’s megaphone to wake up a deaf world. But comments like this hurt a lot of people. Let us therefore commit ourselves never to resort to it.
Consider some of the problems that this misuse of certain Bible passages could cause:
Such reactions stray from true compassion. Will you have compassion for someone who is “learning a lesson”? Probably not.
These responses tend to be condescending: “I wonder when you’ll finally get it. »
These answers indicate that suffering is a riddle that can be solved. God has something specific in mind: it’s up to us to guess what it is. Welcome to a cosmic game of twenty questions… if you don’t find the exact answer quickly enough, the suffering is likely to intensify.
Such reactions suggest that we have acted in such a way as to trigger this suffering.
Such reactions dilute God’s invitation to anyone who is suffering: “Trust me. »
In our efforts to help others, the risk is to overinterpret suffering. We then look for clues to decipher the ways of God, as if suffering were a treasure hunt. Come to the end with the right answers and God will remove the pain. In the meantime, the quest for answers is wrong from the start and will end badly. Suffering is not an intellectual question that demands an answer. This is a very personal subject: can I trust God? Does he hear? Suffering is a relationship issue. Now is the time to speak honestly to the Lord and remember that it is through Jesus Christ, the suffering servant, that he gives full revelation of himself.
3. Don’t say, “If you need anything, call me anytime.
This comment seems slightly better than the previous two, as it’s not quite a platitude. However, this kind and widespread formula reveals that we do not really know each other. People in pain usually don’t know what they want or need. Therefore, they will not call us. This comment is therefore tantamount to affirming: “I said something nice, now, see you later. He shows no real concern for the needs and circumstances of the person who is suffering. Moreover, she is not unaware of it.
Instead of making these kinds of comments, we could ask him, “What can I do to help? Or (better) we could envision what needs to be done and just do it.
Wise friends will buy dog food, do the dishes, bring a meal, mow the lawn, babysit, clean the house, provide transportation to attend the small group meeting, slip a note under the door encouragement and yet another, help with medical bills and so on.
Such acts of love and service make life easier for the suffering person. In fact, a meal is not just a meal. A helping hand with the housework isn’t just a time saver. These gestures communicate to the person who suffers: “I remember you”; “I often think of you”; ” We do not forget you “; “You are on my heart”; ” I love you “. The time spent developing creative strategies is the power behind these acts. Obviously, it is matchless love that reproduces the strategic planning of the redemptive mission of the triune God. He planned and acted before we even knew our real needs.
Despite our clear idea of what has helped us in our own suffering, we find it difficult to do the same when we seek to love others. This explains our awkwardness and our sometimes hurtful attempts. We don’t always speak to others the way we would like to be addressed.