You can see it in their eyes. When someone’s struggling, you can tell. What’s difficult on the other end is knowing what to say to someone going through a crisis.
Recently, I talked to a friend going through a life-threatening illness. I already knew about his situation but even while talking to him and his wife, I could see the uncertainty in their eyes. They knew his life was in the balance.
Having already been in their shoes, I knew what to say and what not to say, which is just as important. Here’s my advice if you meet someone going through a crisis in their life:
Whatever you do, don’t become a preacher. If they ask about God and maybe why this happens, then you can explain (if you have a good Biblical basis) but don’t get on your pulpit first thing.
I had my Bible with me when I met this friend but it stayed in my pocket for a long time. I got it out but only after an hour’s time. They are in pain. They need love not preaching.
Probably the best thing you can do is not talk, at least for awhile! Listening is great for the person in the crisis. They need to talk. They need to share because their world is upside down. So listen first, talk last.
Don’t Share Pains.
Unless your crisis is equal to theirs, don’t try to say you understand what they’re going through. Don’t say you understand because you had a similar problem unless it is equivalent. You really can’t understand unless you’ve been through it. (People who haven’t had cancer have no idea what it’s like, I can assure you.)
Offer to Help.
This is the most important thing you can say. Offer to help them run errands or babysit their children. Offer to do their yard work or bring meals by their house. Believe me, they need the help and even if they decline, they will appreciate the offer.
Talk About Your Faith at the Right Time.
This is the most difficult thing to do. Maybe the person doesn’t even believe in God. If so, they’re not going to want to hear about God at a time like this. But if they ask, then be ready to give a reason for the hope that lies within you.
You may not even find the right time but wait until you perceive that that the person is wanting some spiritual comfort. Maybe they mention praying or they talk about friends at church or something similar. But what’s tough is knowing what to say about God and your faith.
The key is to talk about what has really help you in your faith. (But resist the urge to tell your life story! Remember – it’s about the other person, not you.)
What verse do you really hold on to when times are tough for you? What gives you comfort and confidence? That’s much better than trying to give a mini-sermon on suffering.
I shared 2 Corinthians 12:9 with the person I was talking to and told them why it really made sense to me during my struggle with cancer. I didn’t try to preach to them about what they should do. It took about 60 seconds.
If you’re not solid in your faith and you’ve never really explored what the Bible says about tough times, then I would advise not to try and open this discussion. A person in pain is confused and hurting and you don’t want to add more.
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What do you say to someone who’s hurting? Have you ever had to talk to someone going through a tough time?