We had been worn to the bone by a weekend of health scares. Shortly after, I found myself on the phone with a friend. The conversation began by my asking them how they were doing. I took care to listen to their upsetting news concerning their employment situation. Meandering through the conversation, we got stuck on the friend’s cat stomach issues. Finally the person came up for air and asked me, “So how are you and your husband doing?” I paused and then gave them a brief synopsis of the turmoil we had recently experienced.
they didn’t know when to zip it
Maybe the bar of my expectations was way too high for this conversation. My friend didn’t know when to “zip it”. In response to my retelling our scary weekend, the person proceeded to inform me, in great detail, anecdotes not necessarily related to what we had experienced. They didn’t ask any questions whatsoever about how we were feeling or coping, and then thought it totally appropriate to go back to complaining about their job and pet situation.
didn’t my fear count?
I wanted to wave a flag, saying, “Did you not hear me? I’m on blood thinners, had my first significant fall while on thinners, and I was deathly afraid of hemorrhaging. I was scared. You are responding by retelling the last time you had a minor trip. Didn’t my fear count anything to you?”
Want some tips on how to respond to hurting people? Let these verses be a foundation:
- Romans 12:12-15 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. … Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
- II Cor 1:3-4 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (Our pain MATTERS to God and should matter to the family of believers)
- I John 3:18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. (Actions speak louder than words)
- Proverbs 17:28: Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.
talk less and be present more
Rev. Liz Danielsen, Chaplain, and Founder of Spiritual Care Support Ministries says the best gift we can give to the chronically ill (whether physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually) is time. “Simply saying, ‘I would just like to be with you.’ Jesus did that,” she says. “I think we need to talk less and be present more.”
before we ever open our mouths
Maybe the secret is to not be thinking so much as to what we are going to say to the hurting person. The answer may be to actively present more, really listening not only to what they are saying, but how they are saying it. Asking questions more to clarify what they are really saying. And praying a great deal more before we ever open our mouths. God can use many people to help a hurting person and you might just be part of the valuable chain to love them into the kingdom.