"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Scottish preacher, Ian Maclaren, said that in the 1890's and it still rings true today. During the Civil War a preacher by the name of Joseph Parker said "Preach to the suffering, and you will never lack a congregation. There is a broken heart in every pew."
The Apostle Paul in the first century expressed the same sentiment this way, "Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:30)
Every day we meet people who are hurting: going through a divorce, lonely because of a loss, a loved one in hospice care, dealing with Alzheimer's or cancer, loss of job, terminal illness, rebellious child, financial distress, anxiety, worry, fear and on and on.
Some people are at a loss of what to say or do when someone is hurting. My hope is that the list below will help you when you encounter someone who is hurting.
-Well-spoken words. Please no spiritual platitudes like "everything is going to be alright." In a crisis, discussing theology is ill-timed. Speak in a calm, reassuring voice of love, not theology. Listening goes a long way at the beginning of a crisis. Our words can be helpful, but at times silence might be even more powerful.
-Show love. Bring a meal to their house. Mow the lawn. Help with chores. Appropriate touch can minister to them as well.
-Be ready for the "why" question. This question may not come at first but when it comes, don't assume you know the answer. Listen. Admit you don't know why. Affirm that it's OK to ask that question and don't make them feel it is wrong to ask it.
-Pray. Praying together and out loud is powerful. Call on God for His grace, comfort, mercy and peace. Prayer puts the focus back on God.
-Share a scripture. God's word is powerful and alive (Hebrews 4:12). It is like a soothing salve on a deep wound.
Here are some of my favorites:
Isaiah 40:11; 28-31; 41:10, 13
2 Thessalonians 3:16
-Follow up. Check in on them every few days. Ask them if there is anything they need.