Sometimes, when life gets hard, the kindest and most loving thing we can do for those who are struggling is to be as sensitive and thoughtful as possible.
You see, our world is uncomfortable with discomfort – loss, sadness, and the like – and is quick to offer a pat answer to whatever problem we are facing.
However, as followers of Jesus – or even if you are not a believer, it’s a good life principle to follow – we ought not behave in such a way. We should listen, but not be overly hasty to offer quick spiritual “fixes” (for example, “You just need to pray more and read your Bible!”) that simply aren’t helpful.
I’ve found that often, the best thing I can say is nothing, or speak the truth that is in my heart: “I do not know/understand why this is happening to you.” I let the person know that I have my own struggles – and if I cannot suss out my own issues, what business is it of mine to resolve someone else’s?
However, sometimes, the other person wants to hear my take on the matter – there’s a pause in the conversation where my perspective is desired. I’ve found two qualifying words to be very helpful here: “maybe” and “perhaps”. Whenever possible, I try to speak from my own experience, and refrain from thoughtlessly imputing my opinions on someone else. After all, no two situations are alike.
I’m not trying to say that I have this down to a science, but having been on the receiving end of some pretty thoughtless words in my time, I aim to model something different when people share their struggles with me. I never want to be accused of singing songs to the heavy-hearted, although I certainly have made my share of mistakes in the past.
Dear Lord, thank You for this important reminder to be sensitive to the people in my life who are hurting. Help me to remember that words have power, and to be conservative and thoughtful in my use of them. You gave me two ears and one mouth for a reason, so remind me to listen twice as much as I speak! In Your name I pray, Amen.