I Don’t Know What To Say

April 13, 2011

Two days ago, we had a little Christian gripe session.

I asked you what has God done lately that made you mad.  And there was no shortage of responses.  I even had several responses come to my inbox.

I have to admit, I didn’t respond to a lot of comments.  Why?

Because in a lot of ways, I’m not a great pastor.  And this is one of those ways.  I just don’t know what to say to someone who’s life is in Suck-Ville, Population: 1.  I want to console people without sounding trite or phony.  I just haven’t found a way to yet.

I’ve certainly tried to find the right words by process of elimination.  Today, I’m featuring all of the responses I could’ve written to your stories of woe.  Maybe by the end, we can figure out an all-purpose sympathy phrase and make each other feel better!

What Not To Say To Someone Whose Life is No Fun

“Things will get better.”

How do you know?  I’ve known people who were like human lightning rods.  I can’t explain it, but every week is a new disaster.  What if things don’t get better?  What was the phrase we learned as children?  “Life isn’t fair.” If life isn’t fair, then there’s no reason things have to get better.

“I’m praying for you.”

This is our go-to consoling phrase, and I guess it does feel good to know that other people are praying for us.  But it’s still tricky.  If I don’t believe God hasn’t listened to my prayers, and now my life is in the dumps, how much faith am I going to put in someone else’s prayers to the same God who orchestrated the mess I’m in?

“All we can do is pray.”

On the flipside, you hear this a lot when there is no hope in a hospital room or something like that.  Saying this just makes prayer sound like a last resort that you know won’t really work.

“Whenever God closes a door…”

Guess what?  I don’t want to have to go through a window.  And besides that, sometimes, it’s just a closed door with no window.

“I understand.”

I probably don’t understand, really.  And I shouldn’t pretend your problems are so simple that I really understand them.

“Maybe you need to repent of some sin.”

Invoked in personal tragedies and natural disasters, this line of thinking is no different than ancient people believing it wasn’t raining because the gods were mad.  God said that the rain falls for good and bad people.  If every bad thing in your life happens because of something you did that pissed God off, then we’re back to square one with a god of carrots and sticks rather than grace.

“At least you don’t have it as bad as that guy.”

Great.  My problem doesn’t count because it’s not as “big” as someone else’s problem.  Guess what?  If my foot is chopped off, it doesn’t make me feel any better that someone else got his leg chopped off.  I still don’t have a foot, and I’m mad because I loved my foot.  I get that I still have a lot to be thankful for.  But have you ever been around someone that just had to top everyone else’s stories by saying, “That’s nothing…” Annoying, isn’t it?

“I hope you find peace and contentment.”

I don’t know how we got on this kick about being “content” in everything, but I don’t think it’s possible.  The Bible doesn’t say to be “content,” it says to be “joyful,” which is a Bible-y way of saying, “Buck up and quit being a crybaby.” Things might never turn out the way you want, and you have to find a way to live with that.  But telling someone to find contentment or peace in a bad situation just sounds to me like, “I hope you find the strength to give up trying.”

“God works all things for good.”

I may believe that, but I don’t think it all turns out good in this lifetime. We can die with a lot of things still wrong.  Better to save this one until something actually turns out well.

“There, there.”

Whenever my wife knows she’s blowing some little problem out of proportion, I summon the bare minimum of male empathy I can muster and respond with this phrase and an emotionally neutral pat on the back.  Works every time.

Sometimes, I feel like the best thing I can do is just shut up and say, “Wow, that does suck.  But I care about you.” I can’t defend God’s actions or motives.  He shouldn’t need me to.  I don’t know how anything will turn out.  All I can do is tell someone what I know for sure, that I care about them.  And rather than saying “at least my life isn’t as bad as that guy’s,” I can read my Bible and take comfort in the fact that when my life is terrible, I’m in good company.

But like I said, I’m terrible at these things.  So what do you do when someone you care about gets hit hard with life?  Any other phrases that belong on the list?

58 responses to I Don’t Know What To Say

  1. i transferred to a new school my junior year of college — and didn’t really like it all that much to begin with. then i was running one day (about two weeks into my first semester) and saw a guy on a motorcycle get run over. i was the first on the scene and did cpr with another guy who arrived early. we got the guy’s heartbeat back just before the ambulance arrived, but never his breathing. the goalkeeper for our school (i later found out that’s who he was) died just a few hours later.

    i had nightmares for a few nights. and anytime i closed my eyes (even to pray), all i could see was this dead and lifeless face looking back at me, helmet by it’s side and blood on the ground. we had a devotional a few nights later at the school, and this guys friends led us in song and prayer. i went off to the side and sat down, leaning against a tree.

    a girl i’d maybe met once approached. she sat down next to me and confessed that she didn’t know what to say. so she put her arm around me, sat quietly, and let me cry for a few minutes. then she got up and walked away.

    she did, for me, what was perfect in that situation. i didn’t need someone to tell me the guy was better off, or that it wasn’t my fault. i just need someone to be there. that’s all.

    i suspect many of us are like me.
    JamesBrett recently posted..brett’s morning blend 12apr11

  2. The whole time I was reading this I was thinking that the best response is probably “Man, that really does suck.”
    I think deep down all we want in those situations is someone to acknowledge that it does suck. That it is not just me that thinks it sucks.
    (Unless the person is in a position to really do something to fix your situation, then they could do that 😉 ) But some situations are just not “fixable” they just have to be lived.

    • Wow… I really like that last sentence…

      “Some Situations are just not “fixable” they just have to be lived.”

      I think we get a little “cocky” for lack of better term that we start to think to ourselves that God must have sent this person to us for the reasons of saying clever sayings that can make everything better instantly. It just another way of saying…hey…I know God more than you do. So shut up and listen….

      sucks…
      arny recently posted..Top 5 Tuesday- 5 People I would pick to talk to from the entire Bible

  3. Hi Matt,

    You’ve done it again; you’ve hit the nail on the head. I don’t know what to say either and the platitudes I’ve heard all my life ring hollow.

    You may want to censor what I have to say from this point on:

    Usually, when I want to comfort someone in heart-breaking trouble and pain, the phrase of Christian comfort that comes to my lips is, “Damn! That’s a bitch”.

    I think honesty helps.

    I learned this from a Baptist pastor about 50 years ago. I was in crisis. Torn this way and that. Suicidal. Being a Bible-believing Christian involved in a distressing divorce. Searching the Scripture for guidance and getting nothing…

    Meeting with this Baptist pastor in Washington, D.C., I poured out my anguish about the unsolvable situation and my desire to follow God’s will as revealed in His Holy Word and my dilemma about divorcing my first wife which seemed imperative. Trapped. No way out. Incredible pain. Anguish. Hurt. Feelings of betrayal in the face of a silent God…

    I paused in my pain. The pastor looked across his desk on which lay an open Bible. He said, “John, let me see if I can couch this in non-biblical terms–You’re really fucked up”.

    I laughed so hard I cried!

    Here 50 years later, I still recall his unexpected words as the most helpful anyone has ever said to me about real life situations.

    John

  4. Weep with them who weep comes to mind. Just being there listening for people is a comfort sometimes. I know what helps me through the tough times is knowing that life is short compared to all eternity. Romans 8:18 says, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
    Karen, author of “My Funny Dad, Harry” recently posted..Happy Shabby Chic Day!

    • When my mother died last year, I found the myself most comforted by the glimpses I had of people weeping. Of course, then they’d see me and try to put on a brave face and smile. But what made me really feel they understood my loss was the glimpse I had of their tears.
      My point? You’re right!
      Helen recently posted..Happy Birthday- Wendy!

    • This comes to my mind too. I’m a big crier, I got told my first year of Nursing school that I wouldn’t make a good nurse because I cry to easily. I though I was being selfish when I cried, like that it wasn’t my sad thing to be sad about.

      I have much more control now than I did then, but when I’m dealing with babies that might die, I think when moms see me struggling not cry, it validates how they feel, it shows them I care. Now as a mom, I think if I saw a tear in the corner of the eye of the nurse of my baby, I would know she’ll care for them like they were her own.

      Not that crying it the correct response since it’s not something that can be forced, however I think the validation is the important part. Most of the statement people hate downplay the suckiness of what people are going through and how much it hurts. I don’t know about everyone else, but for me sometimes I just want people to acknowledge what I’m going through is hard. Recognize it.
      Jenn recently posted..This is Gratitude

  5. Matt, you do an excellent job with this blog, and you know I support it, but I seriously doubt you are a bad pastor. The best thing to say is often nothing at all, just listen. A young priest once was on his first assignment to a rather large church, the priest in charge was out, and an emergency call came in that one of the teenagers of the parish had been in a car wreck and was in very serious condition. The young priest was worried because he’d never dealt with anything like this before, but he went anyway, because the Pastor was not reachable.

    At the hospital he was with the parents when they were told that their son had died. He said nothing, he could think of nothing to say, “all I did was cry.” Then he went back and thought of leaving the priesthood because he was such a “bad” priest.

    After the funeral the senior Priest came up to him and said, “the parents love you and want you to come to the house after the funeral to eat with them.” The young priest, astonished, said why? The senior said, “They said, ‘he came and cried with us.'”

    • Thanks, Steve. :) I suspect that priesthood training has some things in common with Protestant seminary. There’s a whole lot of training that doesn’t happen. So a guy gets into a situation like you describe, and he doesn’t know what to do, and he assumes any other guy would’ve handled it better.

  6. Sometimes, saying nothing speaks volumes.

    I think part if the problem is that we approach our faith and how we are to interact with others like some kind of glorified Hallmark card: we need some succinct, catch-all phrase or theme that can sum up everything, and bonus points if it looks good on a bumper sticker or t-shirt.

    What we need to just is just be honest, acknowledge the pain of the experience, and express it in however best fits the situation or the person. But we need to remember (okay, maybe just MY jaded self needs to remember this) that sometimes, when someone does say they’ll pray for us or offer us something that could come across as sound-bitish, it comes from a very sincere and genuine heart.
    Sonny Lemmons recently posted..Blood Makes Noise

  7. I guess this is the very thing that irks me about religion. There are no set phrases that cause someone to be comforted. Hang on, let go – it’s psychotic.

    This is exactly one of those places where we need to see what the Father is doing, and do it. Some days it is a prayer, other days it is counsel, other days it is drawing compassion from a similar personal experience, or saying I don’t know what I would do if ____ happened to me.

    When it comes to prayer, we need to know what to pray, and God can tell us that too. Some days people are going to get healed, and other days they are not.

    My personal experience from being in the cardiovascular unit last week is this. My wife comforted me because her presence is comforting. It is one of the things I love about her. My friend Jot came an unexpectedly, and it made me smile. My friend Eric came, and we talked about his bypass surgery last year – that made me grateful I am not having a bypass. My pastor came and he encouraged me. Then he laid hands on me and prayed. The power of God was amazingly present and I felt a lot better after that. I had a few calls from some of the elders and church friends. Was a nice surprise.

    No one said anything that really mattered – they were just there in various ways. That is how God took care of me. Folks are still calling, still offering to help, and that is what matters. It is a lot less about what we say, for God’s sake we are not running for office. We are just humans that need to be listened to, hugged, prayed for and encourage. And only God knows what those things are.

    Thanks for the blog, Matt. You are well on you way to being a great pastor because you see the needs!
    David recently posted..Cellphone- Glasses and Underwear

  8. Funny (well, not ha-ha funny, mostly just interesting), I just wrote about this earlier this week. Some friends of mine have been going through some really difficult situations and there’s just nothing to say. I’m a talker, so that’s hard, but I’m trying just to shut up and hold people when they’re hurting.
    Alise recently posted..Guest Post at The Screaming Kettle At Home

  9. I think grace has to be shown on both sides, because even if we are just to be present with a person suffering, we still have to say something, and it’s not going to be perfect, but it’s better than not showing concern out of self-conscious fear.
    David N. recently posted..Swimming in Poo Guest Post by Alise Wright

  10. “I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do?”

    A hug does wonders. So does making a specific suggestion of how you CAN help (can I bring you a meal? take your kids for the day? Mow your lawn?).

    I’ve been on both sides, and putting ACTION to your feelings can make a HUGE difference.
    Joanne Sher recently posted..Why Monday Manna

  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! As I’ve dealt with a neurological condition for the past two years, I’ve heard all these and more. While some don’t bother me (“I understand”) others need to never come forth from any person of goodwill’s lips again (the whole confessing sin thing… way to blame me for my damaged nerve cells). I also didn’t like hearing that maybe I need to change my perspective, or that maybe my problems are all in my head (again with both of these, the person is essentially blaming me… not so comforting). You know what I appreciate? Actually just being here for me, even if nothing is said. A text, a call, a card- all of these say, “I haven’t forgotten about you and I care.” And for my Christian brothers and sisters, I actually LOVE it when someone doesn’t just say, “I’ll pray for you” but actually calls me up and prays with me. It’s amazing how few people do this.
    Alisha recently posted..A Farewell to Arms

    • That is such a good point….we are always saying we’ll pray for people, but how often do we do it then and there…..I’d love to be better at this…sometime though it’s hard to know what to pray too. All the churchy prayers seem to come to mind first and seem so wrong and inadequate!
      Jenn recently posted..This is Gratitude

  12. This may be insensitive and off topic, but I really like the changes you made to the blog. The background is awesome, and the header is awesomer.

    Sucks you can’t find the right responses to those who need it. I’m in the same boat.
    Clint Oncken recently posted..Confessions-I am not who I say I am

  13. One thing that gets me is when we pray for something but say, “Not mine but your will be done.” Why did we pray in the first place? Why not just let God’s will happen. Why qualify our request? We should just say, “This is what I want to happen and I am asking for this, but you know just in case you disagree I don’t want to look like a complainer in front of anybody else.”
    Jeremy @ confessionsofalegalist recently posted..The message of less sin

  14. I hate it when people say, “Things will get better” or “Just pray.”

    We really don’t know that things will get better. Praying is fine, but like you said, we say it like it’s a last resort thing.

    nicodemusatnite.com
    Charlie Chang recently posted..280 Story of Joseph via Arrested Development

  15. That’s good advice, Joanne.

    Matt, my fear is to sound patronizing. Also, I’ve always felt that my saying, “Call me if you need anything.” sounds hollow.

    • I feel you too, just because I’ve never had anyone take me up on the offer. I think Joanne’s right. You have to name specifically what you can do to help. An open ended offer is too hard for the other person.

      • Well right now I could use some to go grocery shopping, and help put in two small air conditioners. 😉
        David recently posted..Cellphone- Glasses and Underwear

      • After my mom died, I never called any of those people who said “call me if you need anything.”

        But I did send my kids to the park one day with a friend who called and specifically asked if she could that. And when another friend called one morning and said, “I’m bringing dinner tonight” I didn’t stop her.

        Another great post, Matt. Honestly, just hearing someone say “you’re right; this sucks” makes me feel better than any of the other phrases.
        Nicole @ Here’s the Diehl recently posted..Short Hiatus

  16. I have chronic headaches and frequent migraines. When I hurt, it is totally unhelpful for someone to try to solve my headache problem. On the other hand, I truly appreciate my friends who are praying for me (and I know they’re praying for me). And the ones who just say “Wow, that sucks, and I’m really sorry.” Nothing is going to make the headaches better, but just knowing that they’re with me is a great feeling.
    Catherine recently posted..7 Quick Takes Friday – 4-7-2011

  17. I completely agree with you and all the people who use “that sucks”. My close friends and I all agreed to say “wow, that really sucks” instead of saying “I’m sorry” or some other phrase because “I’m sorry” denotes an apology, and everything else just doesn’t quite fit. A lot of times, all we really need is someone to acknowledge our pain, not someone to fix it.

  18. When I was in college, was part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I was part of the leadership team in that group, and a very tight group we were! I started dating the president of the group. Next thing I know, he asked me to marry him! I was engaged to the man I was SURE God had created just for me. I adored him. We had the church, the date, I had a ring, plans were being made. Then, he ‘changed his mind’ about marrying me because God told him he needed to be single a little while longer.

    i.
    was.
    crushed.

    This all happened with the audience of our group, and we all attended the same church on Sunday. My ex was my ride to church so he gave me a ride, but asked if I couldn’t get a ride home w/ someone else. One of the other guys on the team (who was know for being kinda withdrawn and to himself) gave me a ride home from church that day. He pulled up to my dorm and said, “ya know, don’t think you have to hold back your tears. If you just want to sit here and cry, you can.”
    I bawled my head off for 45 minutes. I didn’t talk, he didn’t talk. We just sat there.
    That was 20 years ago, and we are still friends. and obviously, it really ministered to me. DEEPLY ministered to me.

  19. I think the one obvious thing we miss so often is the simple act of trying to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. I think when you run through all those things you think might be helpful just aren’t anymore from that perspective. Sometimes all you can say is “I’m so sorry”.
    katdish recently posted..Life goes on

  20. I don’t know that I would say this to someone who is having a hard time, but I’ve taken great comfort in my own life by remembering this: All is well. Christ is risen.

    Ultimately, I know that this is all that matters, even when I don’t think I can keep on.

  21. I show up and if I have to say anything, I tell them it sucks. Then I simply listen and if they have no words, we sit together in silence. Being there for someone matters more than the words we say. I could write a book about all the inappropriate things people have told me when I was going through difficult times. I never want to do that to anyone else.
    HopefulLeigh recently posted..Of Serving Trays and Giveaways

  22. I really love the people who’ve been coming up to me during this season I’m in and told me that I need to just “get over it” because I’m still in the top 5% of the wealthiest people in the world. I want to look at them and say “well, you know what, genius? That doesn’t feed my ****ing kids when they’re hungry and crying!”
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  23. “Call me if you need anything” is like, practically useless. So is “call me anytime.” Do you know when I’m going to need to call you? 3 in the morning. I’m not going to call you at 3 in the morning, and no matter how much grace you have, you’re not going to want me to call you at 3 in the morning.

    Also, “I can’t even imagine” is just as bad as “I understand what you’re going through.” The fact that you can’t fathom my pain is so very, very reassuring.

    More bad advice I’ve gotten: “Wow, you’re being so holy. I totally would have sinned in that situation.” Again. Reassuring.

    I think the best thing is to sit and listen. Remind people of the Gospel and of the cross. That things may suck here and now, but that the person has been so incredibly blessed in Christ.

    I can get away with this because I’ve been through enough personal hardship that I can say it without being trite, so people usually believe me. This is also how I tell people to minister to me, and my closest relationships are built around this kind of mutual ministry.
    Jo_of_TSN recently posted..In which the Albertsons baker curses at me

  24. I tell people that I love them. Just letting them know that helps out a lot.

    And a phrase that I think we use too much is “Well, are you reading your Bible?” As if to say that the crappy stuff going on is because they are not living up to His standards. It drives me crazy because sometimes bad stuff just happens.
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  25. I usually say something along the lines of “I don’t know what you’re going through… and I can’t honestly say I feel your pain because I’ve never been in your shoes…” and then I try to encourage them to simply cling to the promises of God and trust that He knows exactly what He’s doing, no matter how it may look to us.

    Good post.
    heather joy recently posted..That’s what grace is for- reflections on the ABC News 20-20 IFB Report

  26. We always seem to commend Job’s friends for sitting with him for seven days in silence. Then we forget that they opened their mouths for about 30 chapters, and in the end God rebuked them and accepted JOB’S prayer and sacrifice on their behalf! (Almost gives you a reason to smirk on the inside the next time someone gives you one of these whimsical retorts…it does for me, anyway!)

    So I agree…let’s all be better listeners and weepers.
    Angela H. recently posted..LChaim Thoughts on Israel- Part 1

  27. It’s times like these I usually just listen and say, “I’m sorry; that is unfortunate.” I’ve found that often people (especially Christians) don’t always need an answer. They usually know God is up to something. They just need someone to listen to them rant and offer a few bits of empathy along the way.

    “There, there,” is a great response.
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  28. I think crying and full-frontal hugging are the great non-verbal things we do to help people. I also think that instead of saying “I will pray for you” it is better to say, “Can we pray together?” and then just do it, making sure to keep from saying the things on your list in your prayers.

    Would saying “Jesus knows how you are feeling” be another bad thing to say to someone hurting?
    tandemingtroll recently posted..Flying solo

  29. I think that comforting someone who is hurting, when you are not, is awkward. Anything you say is going to feel like it falls short to offering the comfort it needs to, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say it. Even if it does sound contrived, even if it is cliche. And sometimes it depends on your relationship with the other person. In the situation with my husband and I, where we felt called to our current location by God, and then everything fell apart and we are pretty darn close to impoverished, I am the one to fall into the mully-grubs more often. My husband doesn’t always coddle me in these situations. You might think “Things will get better” is a bad thing to say, but if I’m a Christian, following God’s will and knowing the promises of the Bible, then I know they will get better and I need to keep believing it. So my husband reassures me that in these times God is working and God will bring us out of this. I’m not expecting God to make me rich and give me a new car and and huge house, but I know He will bring me to the other side. As Christians, I think we need to speak in faith, which many times, requires that we consult the Holy Spirit before speaking. When some one is in a situation where money is tight or a job is lost I usually go with with Matthew 6:26. “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” It has comforted me a lot.

    I’ve also been on the side where I wish people would say nothing at all. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 4 years ago. She was 52, I was 24. I planned my wedding without my mom knowing much about my wedding, because she could no longer understand what the word engagement meant. Most of the milestones that occur in a young woman’s life my sisters and I will do without our mother, but her physical presence is still in our lives (as well as the responsibility of helping our dad care for her). Unless your parent has forgotten your name and you’ve had to grieve them while they are still alive, you have no idea what it is like. I used to hate when people would try to comfort me, especially people who were my mother’s age who had parents in their 80s. I used to hate people asking me how my mom is doing. But I realized that it wasn’t all about them- it was more about me. They were trying to help. Even if their words weren’t what I thought I needed, those words came from a place of love and caring. I learned to get over myself. My annoyance stemmed from my own pain, which they were trying to alleviate. I learned to see the heart behind the words and am now thankful for people who care.

    So I guess my point it that is never feels right when we are comforting someone- it shouldn’t there is pain involved. But I think everyone has stated that anything sincere is always a good start- even if it is just crying with someone.

    P.S. Paul does talk about being content in all circumstances. Philippians 4:11-13. This is a comforting passage for me and it can be for others, but its probably not the best one to pull out when someone is upset. 😉
    Carla recently posted..The Stench in Gods Nostrils

  30. I have really learnt this year that token phrases don’t really work. When my wife is having a hard time with something and she is venting about it to me I have often tried to say the ‘right’ thing. But most of the time there is no ‘right’ thing. She just needs to know I am there and I understand. She doesn’t want me to fix it necessarily, like I so often want and try to, but just wants someone to listen.

    It’s like when someone dies. What can you honestly say in those moments. I don’t think there is anything. The time for that comes later. We just need to know we are not alone.
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  31. I like this! I work in an oncology (cancer) ward as a nurse and as you can imagine that involves a lot of death. I think the most helpful advice anyone has ever given me in regards to helping others through their grief, is that people don’t want to know why they shouldn’t feel bad. When someone just got told that there relitave has terminal cancer they don’t care that grandad is 96 and has lived a full life all they care about is that grandad won’t be there tomorrow, and they feel cheated. All they want is for us to listen, acknowledge and validate their feelings. That said I think that everything you say in the face of tragedy feels trite and unworthy and small. I think that’s because in the face of tragedy we all want to DO something to fix it to make it better and when you can’t you can do feels inadequate. Also I’ve never told a greiving family member that I’m praying for them I always feel like it’s the wrong time in the wrong place, I don’t know why that is but there you go

  32. also I have an aunt who is very lovely and has been through some very difficult times and as a result of those hard times has learnt very honestly and genuinely to say ‘well praise the lord!’ (literally out loud) when the worst things are happening to her. However she also says it to others when they’re confiding in her it’s her genuine response…. This has on several occasions almost resulted in physical violence

  33. Ok, I read all your posts, but rarely comment. Sorry. There’s actually a list of excuses that I have that are just as ‘bad’ as this list of yours. I love this list. And I think you nailed it at the end. Sometimes all you can do is agree that the situation bites and we simply have to listen and move on.
    Rick Nier recently posted..The Most Boring Book of the Bible

  34. Matt, great job of covering the non-starters in the comfort and consolation race.

    Since there are really no good words for crappy situations, just agreeing that it’s a mess and being there is about as good as it will get.
    vanilla recently posted..Dad- Poetry and Memories

  35. When I have no idea of what to say, I try to think of Job’s homeboys.

    Job lost it all. There was no consoling him. His friends finally realized this and just sat down next to him. They said nothing. Just their presence was enough.

    For the record too, I would add “It must not be God’s will…” to the list. It can sting like lemon juice on a paper cut.

    My mother-in-law always says though, when painful things happen “This was not a surprise to God.” I always find it comforting, even if it doesn’t fix anything.
    Modern Reject recently posted..What is Discipleship

  36. When I was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, doctors told me not to worry because it was the “good kind of cancer.” Really? I’m thinking that just about every kind of cancer is sucky. Matt, I’m with you on the “that sucks” response. That pretty much sums it up.

  37. Initially, when sometimes something needs to be said, I have said ‘it sucks’. In follow up, in cards etc to show I amstill thinking of and praying for people, and that I have not forgotten they are still in their grief, I have found I don’t have words to say, but God does. Some well selected truths about God’s full character, not about some promise taken out of context, can be very powerful (eg end of Habbakuk) or else the words to ‘I will trust you in the darkness’, lyrics by Rob Smith, can point people to God’s comfort, not so they stop grieiving, but so they grieve with hope and the comfort of God.

  38. Well I want to thank you for your thoughts shared here! I think an arm around another person’s shoulder can be just what is most needed. But I also believe that sometimes a quiet assurance of your prayers for another person are truly effective – as long as you really ARE praying! Thanks again! I appreciate your mature counsel!

    David

  39. Everytime I hear someone say “Maybe you need to repent of some sin” it makes me want to lay the smackdown. All it is is Karma. One of the reasons I left my last church was because every time something went wrong someone would bring this out. This is the last thing I wanted to hear coz I lost my job. What they’re saying is that God who loves me so much, knowing what is good for me, got P.O’ed one day in His infinite wisdom made me lose my job because I did something I wasn’t aware that would pee God off(Maybe it was that time I used the word crap at youth group).

    Yes crap happens. The way I see it life is a poker game, it’s what you do with the cards that you’re given that makes the difference.