A couple of weeks ago we received the best news possible. We were told that there was going to be a new addition to our family - we were going to be an aunt and uncle again. I was so excited for my brother and sister-in-law. You see, they suffered an unimaginable loss when their first son was born prematurely and passed away. That has been nearly two years ago, and our family has been buzzing with these joyous tidings of a new life for the last two weeks.
Yesterday we received a call that my sister-in-law had a miscarriage. Now, I cannot claim to know what a miscarriage is like because I have never had to walk through the pain of that. I do know, however, what it is like to experience extreme disappointment when you are trying to have a child. Aside from the obvious torture of dealing with the feelings of hopelessness and loss, the worst part is dealing with well-meaning people.
Christians in particular seem to be horrible at handling these types of situations. Unfortunately, they tend to always have their handy go-to scripture ready like: "All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). It is a wonderful scripture to be sure, and it is revelatory when Father drops it into your heart. However, pithy statements and trite scriptural references are not the answer when you see someone in pain.
"What, are you saying I shouldn't share scripture with a hurting friend?" That is not at all what I am saying. My point is that you should stop and pray about sharing that scripture. Is it something Papa is directing you to share, or is it the first scripture you could latch onto that sounds applicable to the situation? If it is something Father is leading you to share, the best way to do it may be to write a note in a card and hand it to your friend letting them know that you felt led to give this word of encouragement. Give them a chance to read it on their terms. That way, they do not feel as if you are expecting them to suddenly feel alright about whatever has happened.
You see, when we offer trite words of encouragement, they sound hollow and empty. When you are on the receiving end, you realize that the intentions are well-meaning. However, most of the time you just smile and nod to appease the sharer. The sentiments, instead of being healing, are often salt in an open wound. That is especially true when they are offered by someone who has no clue what you are going through.
So, what are you supposed to do? Well, the first advice I can offer is that actions speak louder than words. I've always found that when words won't suffice, a hug will work wonders. Not one of those cheap "pat on the back" kind, but the real, wrap your arms around a person and share-the-love variety. If you are not a hugger or do not know the person well enough, a double-handed handshake works well too. You know, the kind where each of your hands enfolds the other person's. It's like a hug for your hand. Oh, and eye contact, please look them in the eye. Avoiding your friend's gaze just communicates the desire to flee as quickly as possible. It does not speak to a desire to comfort and console.
I guess what I mean to say is that the person you are trying to encourage does not expect you to have some answer to their pain. What they need is love, a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear. It is more important that you just "be there" than that you have 3 scriptures and a devotional ready to greet them. We, as believers, need to realize that it is not our job to fix the hurt or heal the pain. Papa can use us as a conduit to effect some of that, but ultimately, He is the one who wraps us in His arms and makes us whole again.
Next time you are confronted with "the pain around us," allow yourself to be guided by the Holy Spirit. After all, that is what He is best at. He is the Comforter, after all. Don't put pressure on yourself to have the "perfect" thing to say, and don't pressure the hurting person to be "fixed" or feel better immediately. Validate their pain, join in their struggle. The Bible gives us this advice in Romans 12:15, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." I know that most of us find the rejoicing part easier to handle, but the weeping part is equally, if not more important.
So, even if it is not in the presence of the individual, shed a tear for their loss or pain. Do not be afraid to feel the very heartbeat of Father for that person. Then you won't have to worry about what to say because your heart will be full of love and compassion which need no words.