When You Don’t Know What To Say: How to Help the Hurting

iStock_000004961653XSmallI have been a social worker for thirty years and often, I don’t know how to comfort people. How silly does that sound? Because I have hurt deeply, when I see others in unbearable pain, I am reminded how inadequate words are. I understand how platitudes and cheerleading attempts fall flat. It’s because trying to make things better, or cheer someone up, does not acknowledge the depth of their pain.

It’s easy for all of us to retreat behind walls and rely on tired old phrases. “I wish I had the answers, but I don’t.” “Just keep trusting God.” That approach only leaves both parties feeling sadder and nothing gets better. So what is the cure for when you don’t know what to say? Here are the three most effective answers I know.

1. Just be there, listen and allow crying, hysteria and all manner of scary and awful reactions to come out, as that promotes healing.

2. Let them know they are not alone... Not just then. Ring them a day later, then a week later and then in another week and stick with them until they know they are NOT alone, even when everyone else expects them to be over it. Hurting people need to know that at least one person understands that healing is rarely fast, and that someone is still there for them.

3. Absorb the Psalms / Word of God, on the deepest level you can. Since I started studying David, that the black times are easier to cope with, as now I spend my comfort-seeking time in the Psalms. I go to David: the regular guy, who found himself in an extraordinary set of situations and who suffered the most appalling persecution, health problems, family issues and threats against him, for years and years and years… and came out happy, blessed and the right way up.

The Psalms are where we can hear someone who hurts like we hurt and does not minimise suffering, or use trite phrases. You’ll find comfort in relating to David’s pain and honesty, and then he’ll always send you straight back into the safety and healing that can only be found in the arms of God.

David has become my role model, not because he had a bag of magical answers, as he didn’t. What he did do, was constantly go back to the Lord in prayer, praise, study, submission and fasting, no matter what, and he made himself focus on the positive when it seemed impossible to. He is infectious. He will teach you how to float peacefully in the shark pool, by pulling you out of yourself, showing you a better way to manage your hurts, and he’ll teach you to fully engage with the loving heart of God.

I recommend that you read the Psalms so often, they get into your DNA. They will change how you think, react and cope with adversity. Read them until you dream them, wake up thinking about them and they inch their way into your mind at other times, during the day. Also try listening to Christian music which is heavily based on, or quotes the Psalms. That has helped me a lot. The Psalms were originally sung and it makes them much easier to remember.

The Psalms are the living, active Word of God with the power to comfort, heal and deliver and they WILL. Just give it time. The Word of God will never fail you.


Further Help:
“How Long?” When Answers to Prayer Don’t Seem to Arrive

When You Can’t Be An Overcomer: Coping With Spiritual Failures

Turning Back the Darkness: Coping With Insomnia and Night Stress

The Habits That Built King David’s Faith

The Power of Praying the Psalms

“But I Will Trust in You…” King David and the Art of Bouncing Back

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