What Do You Say When You Encounter Someone Who's Hurting?

We've all had the experience. We are sitting in church waiting for the service to start and we notice the woman next to us is quietly crying. You sit there paralyzed, not knowing what to do . . . what to say. Or you are walking in the office door and you encounter a co-worker who has been off for a couple of weeks. He lost his young daughter in a tragic car accident. You want to say something ... but what?

I could go on with additional examples ... but if your experience is any thing like mine ... you know exactly what I am talking about. All too often when faced with human pain and grief, we do little if anything. Not because we do not care. But rather because we don't want to do or say the wrong thing. None of us want to add to anyone's pain. And so we choose to do/say nothing.

Of course ... this is quite the wrong thing to do (or not do!). Scripture is clear that we are to "bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2) and "encourage the fainthearted" (1 Thessalonians 5:14). So ... what do we need to do? I recently read an article by counselor Ed Welch. He hit the proverbial nail on the head. He states that when we encounter suffering people, we need to do what God does with us ... MOVE TOWARD THEM. Here's what he writes:

"As his (God's) servants, we are called to do the same (i.e. "move toward others in love."). Because we are relentlessly pursued, especially when we are not worthy of such pursuit, we become pursuers. We turn toward others and move in their direction. That is how the kingdom of heaven works. Sin scatters people; grace draws us toward each other . . . If God gives you grace to move toward others, he will also give you a few words that will be more precious to the grieving person than you think. (Welch gives the example of saying to a hurting person, "I just want you to know that you are on my heart. I'm very sorry!"). 

So .... the next time the person sitting next to you in a worship service or a small group setting breaks out in tears. Don't shut down. Don't move away. But in God's grace, move toward them. And allow God the opportunity to work through you to bring some comfort and encouragement that is sorely needed.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

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