What Not To Say

wordsI must raise my hand here. Yes, I suffer from foot in mouth disease! I’ve often said things I regretted – spoken from the center of my brokenness rather than to ease the hurt of another. In the process, my insensitivity opened up another’s wound even further.

Conversely when setbacks enter my life, I want someone who will place soothing balm on my heart. I yearn for someone who will help me meet God in my prayers, mingle their tears with mine, join their heart with mine. I covet hearing about the promise of a Comforter who won’t leave me alone in my suffering. I crave the person who doesn’t tell me how difficult the battle will be, but the person who reminds me that Jesus, sweet loving Jesus, will meet me in the middle of my hardest battle. I long to embrace the truth that no matter how long the uphill journey will be, God is making me strong along the way.

Too often, when someone shares a difficult thing with us, we don’t know what to say. So we speak what may be truth, “He was a lousy husband.” “You’ll never get out of debt.” “Your diagnosis is the beginning of the end.” These are the words that should not be spoken – not at the beginning. Words that convey a hard, difficult truth must be earned by the battle scars of carrying the other’s burden – not at first disclosure.

The chasm between what I want and what I say has caused me to grow. I’ve learned the first thing we humans need to hear is: “I hear you. You have not been abandoned or forgotten. I am right beside you.” And then we need to model how Jesus is working in their life. Where tragedy has just struck, we need to be the reminder that Jesus forfeited heaven to put skin on and join us in our struggles. We need to say what Christ would say,  “I am with you. What’s overwhelming for you is not too difficult for Me.”

So, I’m trying. I’m not always getting it right. But I am learning when words fail in the face of a difficult burden, the very best words are those that remind the person how special they are; that they aren’t in this alone. God is right beside them. He is for them and working on their behalf. And He is even more committed to their victory than they could ever imagine.

Those words will never crush the spirit, rather they encourage standing strong against the burden. Because with God, we will never be defeated.

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