You wish that there was a magic word. If only there was something you could say to make everything better. But there isn’t. So what do you say to the person you love while he is suffering?
What do you say to your friend you have known since the first grade when she finds out that she has cancer?
What do you say to the guy you work with who just lost his son?
What do you say to your best friend while he fights to save his seemingly doomed marriage?
Don’t get me wrong. The time will come to say something. And it better not involve trite phrases about, “Feeling your pain,” or God needing another kid to play on heaven’s playground. No, when the time to speak does come, you’ll need to speak truth from the Bible. You’ll need to share honest examples from your own life when God made his faithfulness and power known in your immense suffering.
But until God opens the door for those moments, just be silent.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV)
Don’t confuse silence with distance. You can lock yourself in your house, throw away your phone and be very silent. But that’s not what your suffering friend needs. They need you to be there. So in your silence, be present.
There’s a soul mechanic in all of us. We want to fix what’s wrong with the ones we love. And sometimes, we just want to fix it so that we can get the credit for doing what no one else thought of or had the ability to do. We must remember that it’s not our ego that will offer any encouragement during our loved one’s trials. It is our presence.
If someone you love is hurting, don’t feel bad because you don’t know what to say.
Feel bad because they feel bad.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15 (ESV)
And feel bad with them.
Your friend will let you know when she is ready to hear from you. And if you ask him, God will give let you know too (James 1:5-8).
Until that time, just keep showing up.
Your presence says more than you think it does.