Suffering and pain are very real in this world. It occurs all around us, and sometimes it hits very close to home. We are aware of the certainty of trials in our lives and the lives of those around us but when the trials finally come most of us are totally unprepared to deal with it. There's often anger accompanying the grief of going through a trial. People get angry at God, angry with their relatives and friends, even angry at those who are trying to come alongside them and help be a comfort or encouragement. Needless to say, those who are close to a person going through a difficult trial pretty much find themselves at a loss to know what to say. How do you help someone who is hurting? What do you say to someone when no words come to mind? What should you do when someone you care about has just suffered a tragedy?
All of us will eventually have someone close to us who has faced a great trial. Crises in life happen to all. Here are some practical ways that you can come alongside a hurting individual and be an encouragement to them.
Let them talk.
More than anything, a hurting person wants to talk to someone - anyone - who will simply listen. James 1:19 tells us that Christians should be good listeners. For many hurting people they have simply kept their pain to themselves because they don't think anyone really wants to hear their "sob story." Listening might just be the paramount caregiving skill. When we really listen to people, we demonstrate that they really matter to us. By listening we are showing that we genuinely love them and want o know about their trials. Listening affirms the worth of the other person. A good listener learns to grasp not only the spoken words but also the feelings the other person is experiencing.
This goes hand in hand with being a good listener. Sometimes the best thing to do is just not say anything. People who are grieving don't always need to hear you say you are praying for them or you love them. Your presence alone demonstrates you care for them. When they are ready, as in the case of Job (Job 3:1), they will open up. Solomon tells us that there is "a time to keep silence and a time to speak" (Eccl. 3:7). You may have the greatest intentions of sharing words of godly counsel to your hurting friend but learn to first be quiet and cry with them before sharing any of your words of wisdom.
Recognize the power of your presence.
When your friend enters into a trial one of the most urgent things you need to do is simply be there. Your friend needs you most when he is in the middle of a trial. Regardless of how busy your schedule is you need to find time to be there for your friend. Some people hesitate to minister to their friend simply because they are afraid they might say the wrong words. Don't fall into this trap. Many times just your physical presence of being there for your friend is enough. Remember: actions speak louder than words. One of the things that Job said caused him great pain was that his friends had forgotten him (Job 19:14). In a very real sense the test of true friendship is measured by how you respond when your friend is in the midst of a tragedy.
Even though the effects of the trial may wain in your mind they remain constant in your friends mind. It's easy to forget to keep in touch with your friend. Normal grief may last months or even years. In today's day in age it's easy to stay in touch with your friend and let him know that you are praying for him. The occasional text or email can be a great encouragement to him.
Give time for grief.
Don't try to talk your friend out of feeling pain or grief. We can do this if we're not careful by saying things like, "Rejoice and be glad! God is in control." "Cheer up; everything will work out in the end." "It's time to move on." This kind of advice does not fit with the testimony of Romans 12:15-16 which says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." It's important with this to not judge another person because they don't grieve the same way you might. In the midst of a great tragedy you should not expect your friends words and thoughts to be rational and logical. Grief has a logic of its own. It comes in waves. You won't help your friend by judging him for his emotions or pushing him away from his grief.
Avoid saying, "I know how you feel."
Quite frankly, no two trials are the same. Even if you have experienced a similar trial as your friend you have never walked in their shoes through their particular trial. Saying that you know how you feel can insinuate two things that you don't want to communicate to your friend. First, it can insinuate that you have all the answers since you have been through a trial just like his, Second, it can insinuate that you are the only person that can really help him through this trial. If you do have a similar experience in a trial as your friend try saying things like, "I have some understanding of what you're going through" or "I hurt with you."
Meet your friends basic needs.
Many churches have made it a practice to arrange for meals to be delivered to members of their church that are going through a trial. This is a terrific way to show your love and care for your hurting friend. If you are not sure how to help your hurting friend start by meeting his physical needs. When someone is going through a big trial in their life basic needs like normal sleeping and eating patterns can become completely disrupted. When Elijah was feeling the pain of a trial God provided for him sleep and a meal (1 Kings 19).
Posted by Caleb