Originally written for Shepherd of the Ridge Lutheran Church, apply these ideas to your local context.
It’s no secret that we live in a world of pain and suffering. And when we’re suffering the most and really need someone to talk to, it seems we find ourselves alone. When friends go through major crises like divorce or the death of a child, we tend to avoid them. If we see them at the grocery store, we tend to slip down a different aisle to avoid that suffering person.
Why do we avoid them? Chances are, we just don’t know what to say. But then again, neither do they. When I do hospital visits, I can go visit someone who’s in all kinds of pain, and when I ask, “How are you doing?” because I want to know the person’s condition, I often hear, “I’m good. How are you?” Really? You’re good? Then why am I visiting you in the hospital? But that answer comes, because we don’t know what to say.
First, know that your presence there is more important than anything you could say. In fact, saying, “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I’m here for you,” is probably better than any words of wisdom you could think up. When people are lying in a hospital bed, they’re not usually looking for advice. If they are, they’ll ask. What they really want is comfort, and unless you’re an attending doctor or nurse, chances are, your body in the vicinity brings the most comfort.
But when the phone call comes, and that friend or family member is facing a crisis, and you really want to provide a little more comfort, here’s a few suggestions:
- Romans 8:18-39 has one great word of comfort after another. Pick a paragraph or whatever seems appropriate. Bookmark the page in your Bible for easy reference.
- Sometimes, sending them to more words of comfort, like the sermons posted on our website, may be helpful. You may remember one or two that impacted you. “Where was God when…?” specifically addresses this kind of situation.
- One word: Resurrection. No matter what your problem, Jesus has the solution in the empty tomb. On the Last Day, all of our problems will be solved. Meanwhile, He is with us and will help us through whatever problems face us. Since most people in the United States believe in some kind of heaven, don’t worry that you’ll be offending them by saying this.
Jesus came to bind up the broken-hearted, and He has made us His hands and mouth to continue that ministry. May God give you the courage and love to do so.