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What do you say to someone in pain?

Earlier this month, I posted What do you do when God is silent? and asked for your participation to help give Monica some good advice during a tough time for her. Just a few days ago, I wrote How to interrupt a suicide about a World Race team’s experience with a man who almost killed himself i…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Earlier this month, I posted What do you do when God is silent? and asked for your participation to help give Monica some good advice during a tough time for her.

Just a few days ago, I wrote How to interrupt a suicide about a World Race team’s experience with a man who almost killed himself in Africa.

They got to pray with him and speak life back into his soul. The Racers are convinced that God took them on that day’s excursion to rescue this man from untimely death. In response to the story, one blog reader, Emily, wrote:

Wow! This story gives me goosebumps! God is good. It’s awesome that he used a day of fun to help this man. My husband’s family is currently experiencing loss due to a suicide. It’s so hard to understand.

I’m so thankful that Paul has a new lease on life!

He got a second chance – it’s a beautiful story of redemption. But what
happens when rescue doesn’t come, when someone dear to us is mired in great pain or even slips away by their own hand? What do you say to someone who is in the midst of suffering? We all know such people – how do we help them address such profound pain and even anger?

Comments (10)

  • My family just lost my Uncle recently…and my cousins were overwhelmed with people trying to hug them and “make it better.” One cousin said she received 134 hugs at the funeral and that she was so tired of people telling her “it’s going to be ok” to make themselves feel better and then walk away.

    In my experience people who are suffering become experts on what not to say to someone who is hurting. In an attempt to comfort, plattitudes (like “God will never give you more than you can handle”) come so naturally out of our mouths but are actually harmful and demeaning.

    The best thing i have learned is to be present. Accept that sometimes we aren’t supposed to speak to “fix the situation” for them. Recognize with that person that the situation is awful and affirm that it is ok to be mad and to grieve. Then wait with them for the next step, don’t hurry God’s process.

  • I believe that the picture says it all; most times I think we just need to simply be there. If we’ve never experienced the situation they are facing we can’t speak to it, although is we have speak with authority and it will be received, as you are speaking from experience. Just be “REAL”, I believe people despise “CANNED” Remarks.

  • I agree with Scott Pitts. In remembering when Rachel was killed, I can{t remember much of the bumper sticker platitudes, but I remember those who just sat, or hugged, or provided an act of service like mowing the grass. Most of all, it was those who where there weeks, months and years later. It was those who brought up her name, or spoke of missing her at holidays and family events, or special days like Rachels birthday or the anniversary of her death.

    In the western culture, we want to keep people from crying and expressing grief. That is not God{s way for us. Jesus grieved. We are to grieve. The Body of Christ must learn to grieve WITH others, especially those outside of the body. IN this way, we express the agape in a profound way.

    We are afraid to ask, what are some of the things you are missing about so and so today, or to send a card or make a call. It may have been Augustine or Luther or another, but we have been told to prach Christ, and to use words when necessary.

  • Sometimes you need to be there but sometimes people in pain just need alone time to come to grips with everything and you have to respect that want. I agree with the above statements that the grieving process takes time and sometimes we try to rush things. I had an instance where I was trying to be in a relationship with a woman whose husband had passed away just a few months before that. I felt it was too soon but she didn’t think it was. She still had a lot of up and down moments and we had to end up parting ways due in large part to not waiting. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to wait until we are needed and that is just feeling out a situation.

  • OK, let’s have some mercy here.

    I agree with what people have said – we need to grieve, don’t give platitudes, DO NOT say, ‘Everything will be OK’ (No, it won’t, ever again), it’s important to be there for the person who is grieving, etc.

    I’ll even add one of my own – Don’t say “call me if you need anything.” They will never call you so you call them. Tell them you’re bringing lunch/dinner/ice cream and ask their favorite restaurant/flavor.

    People who haven’t been through a death or some other major tragedy do not understand and they never will until it happens to them. That’s OK! Thank God that they don’t understand. I won’t wish what happened to me on anyone. (My mom died when I was 23 and my father died when I was 35)

    The first time it I went through it, I was upset with people who didn’t understand (which, of course, included everyone…), but eventually I realized that they were only doing the best they could do – they would never understand because they weren’t me; I had to cut them some slack and thank them for at least trying.

    Finally, II Corinthians 1:3-5
    3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

  • Words sometimes, are so unnecessary. They take away so much that can only be heard in the silence. I am familiar with an album that is predominantly in a foreign language. The response from most English only speaking listeners, is one that they usually cannot articulate with words, they cry, or they are at peace. It transcends words. It makes way for the Holiness to speak amidst the absence of our intellect. When my husband passed at 28 years of age, I found myself as close to bi-polar as I ever care to come. One minute the sun was shining and insprirational, and the next, the thing was just too damn bright and I just needed to shut the shades. One minute everyone was there and overwhelming, the next I was left alone and found myself mad about it. I admire the blog about the young lady that went away to pray about what to say to the childen having nightmares. It is always wise to utilize the silence in any situation for the opportunity that it is, a chance to allow for the best voice to be heard. Perhaps during a long hug, there is a remembrance of the other ears listening for us to call on Him for advice during a stressed moment. Suicide, I find, is another beast altogether. I see more and more of it in the body of Christ. In my humble opinion, largely due to the autonomy that dwells within the body. Oh sure we get together and smile a lot and talk, but not much is being said or heard. I’m not sure we know what it’s like to take up another’s cross, we are busy fumbling with our own. Suicide is desperation. It is a forgetting of whose and who we are. It’s easy to fall into and full of lies. It deserves attention unlike never before and is a call for a real community. One that carries the crosses of one another through silence, conversation, fasting, praying,laughing,walking,breaking bread, etc..Suicide is a spirit and the very mention of Jesus’s name, no matter how weak one may feel, is enough to send it running at least long enough to pick up the phone and hear some truth or reach out for some arms that are safe to crumble in. To anyone struggling with this:
    The world would not be the same without you. Your life is necessary or it would not have been breathed into. You are loved whether you “feel” like it or not, just tell Satan to book it, if you are in Christ and He is at the right hand of the Father, then so are you! Which means, He has no right to be there in your ear.. nope, Heaven has a sign at the juice bar that reads.. NO DEVIL(S) ALLOWED. Watch something stupidly (is that a word?:)funny and turn on the music and dance, sing no matter how horrible you think you sound.. praise no matter how hard it is.. God inhabits our praises.. you don’t get much closer than that without leaving here and the whole point is… the body won’t let you go without one “hell” of a fight… and THAT battle has already been won.. we love you. QUITTING IS NOT AN OPTION.

  • To whom it may comfort:
    I have experienced losses that I thought I had “handled” pretty well… My father died unexpectedly when I was 8, my mother died when I was 17- after I saw first hand disease eat her away the past 3 years and Fear of becoming an orphan grew stronger.
    Loss of my support system when I left my country when I was 25, loss of my health when I was 35, lost my mariage several times (but praise God, through fervent prayers got it back, healed.), Lost dear dear ones like everybody, lost my first grand child 2 years ago… And you are right… WORDS cannot start to do anything for any of the above… but friends mean well, relatives hope to be of comfort… (ultimately the bottom line is I don’t know how you do it without Faith, the comfort that your departed loved ones are being embraced by God Himself.) The worst memory was that I was not allowed to bury my Father (they thought they protected me, in fact they delayed the grieving process, I did not put my Father to rest until I was in my thirtie and when my Mother passed away, after I let a red rose slide of my lifeless fingers on her casket… someone behind me said: “You were great” ??… I did NOT realized until TONIGHT that even though I did not know WHO made that comment – because they were proud of my keeping it “together” – I had not really forgiven them for saying that… I DID JUST NOW, and I thank you for giving me that Peace 30 years later!!!
    If you are the one hurting tonight, May you feel God’s embrace and rest at His Alter, HE KNOWS better than anyone how it feels… and one day, we will ask him first hand to Comfort those who are mourning us.

  • Am a person who have gone through “PAINS”

    Lost a Mother in 1990 and I got to know about it in 1992.

    Lost a father in 1994 and the situation before his death was also heart breaking.

    So as I share with them from what I have personally tested.

    There is a Verse in 2Cor.1:2-4.

    Those who are going through pain and they’re trusting in the Lord, He’s ready to COMFORT them so that they’ll that COMFORT from the to COMFORT others.

    Trust the Lord to Comfort you as you go through that pain and learn to use it ti comfort others.

  • I have also had a great deal of pain in my life. I lost both parents at the age of 24 only five months apart. I saw lots of suffering for three years too.
    This event ripped my life apart. The hardest thing about all of this was the fact that my 1/2 siblings that was much older than I didn’t try to get close to me. I was alone. My husband’s family didn’t do anything extra.
    I firmly believe that we need a code of ethics that shows people how to treat others after a horrendous event in their life. Loving One’s Neighbor As Thyself Was not enforced.
    I was alone. I was also married. That is another story.
    After 25 years, I now realize that someone that was Godly should have taken me under their wings (so to speak). I was avoided. No one loves you when your down.
    I had see everyone that I knew with their moms and dads on holidays etc. I didn’t understand. There was not any special consideration. In fact, someone told me in my husband’s family that it wasn’t their fault that my mom died. Empathy is taught; they never learned it.
    God helped me through all of that, but I still remember. It made me who I am today. I have found that relationships are fluid. Nothing is lasting but the relationship I have with God.
    I would like to say stay around after the funeral for days, months, and even years if you know the person has no extended family. Here in the south groups are hard to break into. They have their social groups formed, and they do not want outsiders. I look normal, but I hurt inside.
    There was no real reason that I should not have been included if the love of Christ would have been oozing through their veins. Yes, a manual needs to be written about what God expects us to do with people that are hurting.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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