Stupid Phrases for People in Crisis

crisis

  1. God will never give you more than you can handle. While some may believe it is theologically correct, depending on your definitions, it is singularly unhelpful to the person who is neck-deep in a crisis, trying to swim against a Tsunami. A wonderful phrase recently came from Support for Special Needs. They suggest changing this from “God will never give you more than you can handle” to “Let me come over and help you do some laundry.” This strikes me as even more theologically correct.
  2. It gets better. Yes, yes it does. But right then, it’s not better. And before it gets better, it may get way worse.
  3. When God shuts a door, he opens a window. Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe he just shuts a door. Maybe there is no window. There was no window for Job. There was a cosmic battle that raged as he sat in distress. There might not be a window. And if Job’s friends had kept their silence, perhaps God would not have told Job to pray for them at the end of the narrative.
  4. Did you pray about it? Again – theologically correct. “Don’t worry about anything, instead, pray about everything…” but in a crisis, you don’t heap guilt onto pain and suffering. At a time of deep pain in my life, someone said this to me. I looked at him in silence, and then with a shaky voice I said: “We haven’t been able to pray in three months–so no, we haven’t prayed about it.” I was in so much pain– it was like he had slapped me. Pray for the person, but please, please leave the clichés at home.
  5. God is good – all the time. Another one that is technically theologically correct. But is it helpful to say this when someone has just lost a child and is screaming at Heaven? Is it helpful to say this to the person who just had their fifth miscarriage? Is it helpful to say this to the woman going through a divorce, because her marriage could not hold up under the stress of a special needs child? They may say it, and we can nod our heads in agreement. But for us to say this from a place that is calm and safe will probably not be helpful.
  6. But for the grace of God go I. “But why you? Why do you get that grace and not me? Why am I the one in the crisis? Was God’s grace withheld from me?” Those are valid responses to that phrase. I understand the phrase, and I’ve used it myself, but it doesn’t help the person who is in deep pain.
  7. Don’t worry. God’s in Charge. Yeah? Well, he’s not doing a very good job then is he? God is in control, but it brings up some serious theological implications about God’s role in the crisis. Instead of a theology of suffering, we might want to think about a fellowship of suffering. Because a fellowship of suffering leads me to sit with a person and say “It’s too much to bear – may I sit with you and bear it with you?”
  8. Maybe God needed to get your attention. Thank God no one ever said this to me during times of crisis – because I might have to punch them in the face with a knife. That’s all.
  9. Maybe it happened for a reason. Remember what I said about punching someone in the face with a knife? Yeah – that.
  10. Just call me if you need anything. While I want to appreciate this, the fact is that people in crisis usually don’t have the ability to call, so they won’t. Even if you don’t know someone well, you can bring them a meal or drive them somewhere.
  11. I could never go through what you’re going through. Come again my friend?? This does not comfort. A false elevation of the character and ability to cope of the person going through the crisis only serves to further wound and isolate. The one who is going through a crisis longs to be on the other side. They wake up and breathe deeply, only to remember the awful reality of their situation, and wish they didn’t have to go through it.
  12. When I think of your situation, I’m reminded how blessed I am. No. No. No. First off, this is theologically completely incorrect. The beatitudes heap blessing on those that mourn, on those who are meek, on those who are poor in spirit — not on those who are safe, secure, financially stable, and proud. Those in crisis are not an illustration of how blessed everyone else is. In  the counter intuitive, upside down way of the Kingdom of God, blessing looks completely different than what we in the West have made it to mean. There are big problems with our use of the word and concept of blessing.

So what do we do? How do we respond?

I think those are difficult questions, but the best analogy I have for people in acute crisis is looking at them as burn victims. Caring for burn victims is divided into three stages that overlap.

The first is the emergent or resuscitative stage. At this stage priority is given to removing the person from the source of the burn and stopping the burning process. The big things to think about are fluid replacement, nutrition, and pain management. Translated into crisis care, this means we’ll bring meals, coffee money, and pick up children from day care.

The second stage is the acute or wound healing stage. At this stage, the body is trying to reach a state of balance, while remaining free from infection. During this stage, patients can become withdrawn, combative, or agitated. This stage can be a lengthy and unpredictable stage. Burn victims, like people in crisis, often lash out at those closest to them. Translate this into listening, listening, and listening some more.

The final stage is the rehabilitative or restorative stage. The goal at this stage is for a patient to resume a functional role within their family and community. Reconstruction surgery may be needed. Encouragement and reassurance are critical to the person at this stage. This would translate into going on walks with the person, taking them out to a movie or dinner, having them over for coffee or a meal.

Burn care has a lot to teach us about loving and caring for people in crisis. And those who care for burn victims rarely use clichés — they are too busy caring.

In February, I wrote a piece called Toward a Fellowship of Suffering, and I’ll end what could be a cynical post, with words from that piece.

“There is something about suffering that longs for someone to sit with us through the pain. It’s the fellowship of suffering. It’s the words ‘you are not alone’ put into action. The sitting bears witness to our pain. More than a card or a casserole, the familiar, patient presence of another says to us ‘it’s too much for you to bear, but I will be with you, I will sit with you.'”

For Part Two: Caring for People in Crisis, tune in here and a written sequel is here.   I also wrote a piece a while ago about grief and the Incarnation that may resonate.

Also take a look at this fantastic piece! http://modernloss.com/could-everybody-stop-trying-to-pretty-up-death-its-not-working/

My passion is working with refugees. Click here to give toward Syrian and Iraqi refugees! There is basically no overhead and the money goes directly toward food distribution, health care, and education.

This post is now closed for comments. 

Posted by

Third Culture Kid - Grew up in Pakistan, lived and worked in Pakistan and Egypt as an adult. Moved to the United States and learning to live away from curry, Urdu, Arabic and the Pyramids.

178 thoughts on “Stupid Phrases for People in Crisis

  1. Pingback: SMH | Cars & Stars
  2. The complete phrase is “God never gives you more than you can handle with His help.” People keep cutting off the last and most important part. It’s still not comforting during a crisis, but unlike the shortened version it does not imply that something is wrong with the person going through the crisis.

    For future reference, money is not the root of all evil either. Accurate quotations make the world a slightly less annoying place.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much for this!! I 100% agree that all of these phrases are unreflected, meaningless and destructive. I have heard even more aweful things being said to people I know; a personal favorite of mine, that seems to be quiet popular amongst fundamentalist christians, is “God has stopped blessing you, there must be sin in your life seperating you from Him”. Forever cringing!

    I have been on the receiving end of some of these myself in situations where I couldn’t deal with anything besides impulse control. It’s frustrating, especially coming from people close to you. It creates such distance, knowing that people are so far from understanding what’s going on with you, in a situation where you’re desperatly trying to reach out. I’m always torn between not wanting to hurt the people who mean well but chose clumsy ways and wanting to communicate how their words actually made me feel – but without being patronizing. Still working on that.

    I will keep this article bookmarked and may share it with a close friend if I dare.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So well said Ella. I keep on thinking about what another commenter said – that we become God’s spin doctors. The thing about blessing is so hard. First off, because many of us have guilt and try and drum up sin in our lives so we can figure out what is going wrong. Thanks so much for reading and taking time to comment.

      Like

  4. i love you and i love this. thank you for putting my thoughts and feelings into words that now i can now relate. i miss you and am so proud of you! xoxo

    Like

  5. Some absolute rippers there….I read them, and laugh at how wise they must have sounded to the ‘comforter’, and how completely naff to anybody else, including (especially) the poor sod on the receiving end. But it aint a humorous situation.

    I suspect that often there’s a couple of ConFundEvang canards floating around in the sub-conscious when this kind of thing happens, first and foremost and most insidious being the idea that as Christians we are always God’s spin doctors first and whatever else second.

    Like

  6. Stupid sayings? I think the writer is being a bit harsh. The person who might be saying these things isn’t necessarily “stupid”, they are trying to help in the best way they know how! You’re going to criticize someone for that???? In this day and age of political correctness, it will get to the point where no one will say anything at all, and then where will society be? Consider this: those sayings came about at some point for good reason, and probably were helpful to many people…and continue to remain so. Just because people nowadays seem to want to wallow in self pity, or think that harshness and meanness under the guise of “tough love” is the way to go, it doesn’t make the sayings any less legitimate. It is still better to keep a positive attitude rather than devolve into a negative attitude that gets a person nowhere. It should be said, however, one should acknowledge that there are times when some of those phrases may very well be useful! One just has to be discerning and not say them ‘off the cuff.” Really the best thing to do for a person is to simply LISTEN and acknowledge someone’s feelings. Neither be dismissive nor rush to ‘solve’ the problems others should be working on themselves. So, like it or not, I will continue to give this advice…when appropriate…and there are times it definitely is.

    Like

    1. I agree with Jill and the writer that the phrases are stupid things to say to someone grieving. The author does not call the people “stupid” as you imply. You mention people wanting to wallow in self pity and are critical of “negative attitude ” which I think is an incredibly hurtful thing to say. Im watching my mother die a painfully slow and agonising death, I do not wish to wallow in self pity but I have a right and a need to grieve and to be allowed to do so without my grief being trivialised. The phrases being discussed are lazy phrases which help no one except for the person saying them. I’m sure they feel they are saying something wise and supportive but for the recipient it can be extremely painful. If one more person tells me my mother is “going home” I will lose my mind. Home is here, with us!
      If you want to be supportive of someone in a time of grief, practical support and letting them grieve is hugely important.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. I think what is important to note is that I didn’t say just “Stupid Phrases” – rather, I qualified the statement with the “for people in Crisis.” If I had just said “Stupid Phrases” than yes it is too harsh. I also think that these are most often said by people who are not in our inner circle of close friends, so they have not earned the right to speak into our pain. And as the third post in this series states, I do think we need to give grace to those people who want to be well-meaning, but don’t really think about what they are saying. When we are in crisis, it’s really difficult to give grace. It’s when we most need grace.

      Like

  7. Thank you for posting this. I have never experienced a serious crisis and often I don’t know how to respond to other people when they share their pain with me. My heart bleeds for them and I long to show how much I care when they hurt, but I don’t have any experience that helps me know what to say or do. This post helped me to have a better idea of helpful responses in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Stroke Survivor and commented:
    My favorite one is “It’s God’s plan”. Was it God’s plans when innocent lives were taken on Sept 11, 2001? Is it God’s plan when children are kidnapped? Until you’ve taken a walk a mile in my shoes, don’t give me or my family advice. The only advice I will take is from my family or stroke buddies.

    Like

  9. Pingback: This | Semper Luna
  10. We just discussed this in church this morning, and the phrase, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” is unbiblical. He absolutely DOES give us more than we can handle….in our own power. We must lean on Him to get through, sometimes.

    I suffered a miscarriage many years ago, and my daughter suffered a miscarriage this week. All the old pain is fresh again, as I grieve with her. I know what she is going through. All the questions I had, “why would an all-powerful God, who can create the world, and heal the sick, allow us to get pregnant with a child that would not survive 10 weeks in the womb? We were willing to wait on the pregnancy. Why did we have to go through that? Why is my daughter having to go through that? I was afraid to pray for a long time when I lost my baby. Everything that I had asked, begged through tears, was denied. I was afraid to pray….afraid that anything I asked, the opposite would happen. I was angry with God, and told Him so. I told Him I couldn’t trust Him right then. Maybe in the future, I could, but not then.

    My college roommate delivered a premature baby in a small country town away from a large hospital with a level 3 NICU. Plans to transport the baby were thwarted by a massive storm that night. The baby didn’t survive. Her husband, a pastor, went out into the middle of the street at night, and shook his fists at God, and screamed curses. The “what-ifs?” can be horrible to bear. But you see, God can handle that. He can love you through your pain. Sometimes there are no answers that we can know in this world. Maybe someday I will know “why,” but 26 years later, I still don’t know.

    Well-meaning friends said all the wrong things, including, “Maybe God is trying to teach you something” (Yeah, like I CAUSED this. I wanted to punch them). In the midst of all the well-wishes I received a card from a casual acquaintance. It said simply, “I will pray for your physical and emotional healing,” and was signed by the sender. That’s all it said. I immediately knew that this lady understood. I suspected she had had a miscarriage herself, and I later confirmed that. She recognized that the emotional scarring was much, much worse than the physical, and didn’t try to diminish it. Those words have been my “go-to” phrase for comforting other people who have suffered a miscarriage. Today, at church, when our friends comforted us in the loss of our grandchild, I knew they “got it.” Most had suffered miscarriages or stillbirths themselves.

    Sadly, about one in four pregnancies will end in a pregnancy loss. That fact is not a comfort to many women, may even be frightening. Oddly, for me, it was a comfort. It told me that I was not to blame. Nothing I did, or didn’t do, caused my baby’s death. I had already had one child, so I knew I would be able to have another, just not that one. I went on to have two more daughters with no problem.

    In some communities, a pregnancy loss is hidden, not talked about. Nobody wants to make a bereaved family “feel bad” by reminding them of the pain, but the talking helps the grieving process. When a church friend lost her fourth pregnancy (she had delivered three babies already), she was devastated, but our church ladies who had suffered a pregnancy loss reached out to her in private. None of us knew who else had suffered a pregnancy loss in the past, as we all had two to four children, and half of us had grandchildren. We soon discovered that ninety percent of the class (or all but one woman – it was a small class) had suffered a pregnancy loss at some point. It is that common. If one woman gets pregnant four times, the likelihood is very high that she will lose one of the pregnancies for no apparent reason. For women with known fertility problems, the number goes up. It’s a lot harder if it is the first pregnancy that is lost, and there is no assurance that another will go to term.

    A pregnancy loss is the worst spiritual pain I ever went through. I have dealt with breast cancer, and the loss of my parents, but the loss of a child is worse. However, it is such a common event, however secret, that I really feel that we, as the Church, needs to know how to respond to the intense pain, and spiritual questioning that comes with it. In any group of women who have multiple children, likely the majority of them will have lost a child at some point in their lives, and may still be questioning why. The pain diminishes with time, but always comes back when someone close goes through it. I’m crying, even now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very beautifully said. I had no support when I suffered an early miscarriage. Event the women I knew who’d had one didn’t seem to understand. I attributed that to the fact that they had many children. But they had never been very supportive as I went through infertility treatment for years either. I lost my first child very early I knew it was over as I confirmed that I had indeed been pregnant. Then I tried IVF and none of my embryos implanted. It felt like a loss. I’d known that they were growing for 3 days. But others were even less compassionate. I “should give up.” “It’s too expensive.” “You should count your blessings and think of all the things you can do without children.” “You can have one of mine.” I could write a book on what not to say to someone suffering from infertility. My personal favorite is when people tell you how easy it is/was for them to get pregnant. My next loss was even harder and only one person I know understood. My best friend. Because she had suffered the same loss. The loss of my son’s twin. But it was just before 10 weeks which seems to be some sort of magic number for when it’s OK to grieve. And even more I still carried a baby so I should focus on that. And yes I was overjoyed that I would finally have my first child. But I’d still lost a baby. And when I look at my son and know that he started out with a twin, for no matter how brief a time, it casts a shadow. I miss that baby and I loved her (just a guess) or him too. When I read most of the phrases above I cringed thinking that people would actually say them to someone. I am so glad that the women at your church have women like you to comfort them. We felt like our church abandoned us when we were going through infertility. We’ve never gotten that warm loving feeling for a church back. It took us a very long time to reach out to our pastor and ask for help. We told him “We are having a crisis of faith because we’ve been trying for years to get pregnant and it’s not working.” He told us “Call and make an appointment.” We didn’t have anything left to reach out again and he never called even when we stopped going to church. My husband hadn’t always been a regular (his mom and sister were) but his family had attended that church for over 40 years. I think they had grown to large and like most large churches they seemed to have lost the ability to nurture their flock to the quest to pay for the ever larger facilities and more extras for the blessed. I don’t know. I thought that finally having my son would make me feel more inclined to go to church. More blessed and like I belonged again. But it didn’t. I can no longer find God in a building with 4 walls and a bunch of judgmental Christians. I have a hope that it’s just because I haven’t found the right church. But I’m weary of searching. And I feel God most right here at home when my son snuggles in close and tells me “I love you mama.” Or when he’s sleeping and he looks like a beautiful angel dropped down from heaven. I wish that when I’d needed comforting, that I’d found someone like you.

      Like

      1. Oh, sweet Patricia, my heart hurts when I read how sad, and disillusioned you are. Please remember that the body of Christ (The church) is a body made up of broken parts. As mere humans, we are all guilty of being insensitive, selfish, or just plain clueless. We all say, and do, things with the best of intentions without realizing the inappropriateness of the word or deed. Please don’t give up trying to find a body of believers that encourages you. They are out there. In this day and age of technology, there is also the church online. If you live in an area where the church options are few, such as a small town, some larger churches live stream their services online where anyone, anywhere, can see it in real time. Our church does. If we are sick, or on the days when I have to work on Sunday and would have to leave church early, we sometimes stay home, and watch the worship service from our computer screen. (www.firsteuless.com) We can send prayer requests via email. Until you find a body of believers where you feel welcomed and encouraged (and please keep looking), you can at least be fed, spiritually, while you are emotionally healing. Currently, over 1000 churches from different denominations in our state are simultaneously going through a Bible study called, “Explore God,” which was written by people from multiple denominations to answer the questions that non-church goers ask. Past sermons are available for viewing, online too. A few weeks ago, the question was, “Why does God allow pain and suffering?” The answers are far too many to go into on this forum, but just know that God loves you, and what has happened to you is not a result of any fault on your part. God allowed his own Son to go through a horrendous death and burial, and had to turn his back on his Son, because He could not bear to watch, the pain was so great. God knows your pain. I could quote the Bible and say that, “for all things work together for good who are the called, according to His purpose,” but that might not be very comforting. We sometimes only see the good outcomes when we look back to the past, but we have to live our lives moving forward to the future unknown. It may be years before we understand “why,” after we look back at what happened since. It may even be the next life before we understand. God promised us that if we share in His suffering we will also share in His glory. If you don’t mind, I will pray for your broken heart to heal. I would like you to pray that God leads you to a warm, encouraging church, or even just a good Christian friend in the meantime, that can comfort you in the way that you need.

        Like

  11. This is absolutely AMAZING. I have struggled through several major depressive episodes throughout my life (and am currently in one that’s lasted just over 2.5 years) and have experienced several moments of severe crisis. Sadly, I have been the recipient of several of these statements and have felt so much as you do. I love your assessment of all of these, but numbers 1 and 10 really struck me because they address a big issue that I see as critically necessary for people in crisis and that is the need for practical help being offered without you having to ask for it. People in crisis don’t always have the mental or emotional wherewithal to think about what they might need someone to do, but when someone says something like, “let me come over and help with your laundry” or “can I bring you dinner tonight or tomorrow night?” it makes it easier to simply say “yes, thank you” or “tonight would be great.” I really love your comparison of caring for someone in crisis to caring for a burn victim. It’s absolutely on target and definitely describes my experience. Thank you so much for writing this. I’m going to share it with my FB blog page and on my blog at some point. I’m currently somewhere between stages 1 and 2, so not writing much at the moment. God bless you!

    Like

    1. That irritates me every time I see it. For the life of me I can’t figure out why people think that the deceased float up to heaven as angels. No Christian church teaches that and I don’t see how a secular person could come up with it either.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. “Grieving with another human being, I think is one of the most holy places to be… When a friend is grieving, all we have to do is be present with her.” – Glennon Melton

    Like

    1. Great interview and perception around grief! Thank you for this. As a guy almost 60 year old guy brought up not to cry but having been transformed by a loving God 29 years ago and following 25 years as a missionary with my wife….we both are grieving the loss of ministry, dreams and abilities as parents….Finding people willing to just listen and be there is like mining for gold……thank you for this encouraging video and Marilyn Gardner for highlighting this problem in our society, but especially in Christian circles where spiritual cliche’s’can fly around so easily.

      Bless you.

      Like

  13. oh what a powerful article! so many things that I’ve thought but been unable to articulate.

    in my experience i get at least 45 flippant, “oh i’m so sorry, i’ll be praying for you” for every concrete offer of help.
    I really don’t need you to be sorry. I do need you to ask what errand you can run for me or what time you can bring dinner over.

    I do appreciate prayers, of course I do, but I’m afraid that too often it feels like folks only say that because they are supposed to. What really is encouraging is when someone says, “I prayed for you this week and specifically asked God to meet X need that I know you have.” or of course it is always nice when they say, “I made you these muffins to remind you that I have been thinking and praying for you.”

    I know it gets wearing when friend is going through a long-term crisis, trust me, I try really hard to not to make it be a central theme. But please, for the love of pete, don’t say, “oh, I don’t know how you do it!/I couldn’t deal with all that!” because really, it’s not a choice. It’s not like I stood in front of three doors and picked this one. I’m not strong, or special, I’m just (barely) surviving. I don’t want to be viewed as superwoman, I want to be able to just cry and tell you how awful it is and how I really just can’t.

    You want to know the worst though? the very worst is when people remark about how good it is for my kids and how it must be making them so strong. What would be good for my kids it to be able for us to make one simple decision without first figuring out if there is a conflicting dr. appointment. It would be good for my kids to be able to do spur of the moment things without mommy having to figure out a care plan. what would be good for my kids is to have a mom who isn’t wrought with worry and grief.

    Like

  14. I would say that until you’ve gone through a harrowing experience yourself, it’s sometimes hard for you to know what the right thing is to do or say. For instance, before my father was killed in holdup, I was one of those people who never said anything to people going through bad experiences for fear of saying the wrong thing. Having my own experience made me realize that a simple, “I’m sorry” is good enough without feeling compelled to add your take on why the thing happened. I preferred that to people who said nothing at all. I also liked when the speaker had a good memory to share of my father. I was glad to hear his name mentioned in a positive light. Having had my own experience made it easier for me to reach out to other grieving people.

    As far as saying the right thing with a person, for instance undergoing cancer, I read an article which advised to ask, “What is your biggest concern or need right now?” This is a good mid-way spot between a generic “Anything I can do?” and making your own assumptions on what needs to be done. (Maybe there already are too many casseroles in the house and she really needs another kind of help).

    Like

    1. I went through breast cancer, and was overwhelmed with casseroles, which I truly appreciated. I did have the courage, however, when someone asked if she could bring over dinner, I replied, “I have too much food already, but what I REALLY need is someone to take me shopping for new bras after my surgery.” I wasn’t released to drive yet, and my energy level was still low, and I was still sore. She drove me to the store, carried the product while I picked them out, reached down to the lower racks that I couldn’t bend down for, and took back the eliminated garments that I ruled out. She even bought me a couple of new shirts instead of bringing me dinner. We joke that this particular lady had the “spiritual gift of shopping.” On that day, that was the most important thing I needed, and the new clothes was my first step in feeling whole again.

      Like

      1. I love this- first that you could be honest with the casserole ladies, second for the reminder that there are many creative and practical ways to offer help. One woman would put money on my desk every Monday with a note “coffee money to get you through the week-I love you.” It was amazing. Thank you Linda.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. We recently went through a very difficult situation that left me suffering from severe anxiety and depression. It was about 3 months ago and I’m just now getting back on my feet. Many people were aware of the greater situation and mostly affirmed that “it must be so hard for you” but the most common comment that I got was basically, “I know this is hard, but God is preparing you for something awesome” or “One day you’ll look back and understand better why this happened.” Well… both of those things could be true, but when i haven’t slept in 3 weeks, and my husband is drained emotionally and spiritually, and I have two little boys who I need to try to take care of, those things are categorically unhelpful. What would have been helpful (and what did happen in some cases!) was for someone to bring us food, or take my boys for the afternoon, or let me and my husband get out for a night alone. By God’s grace there were people who sought to meet the actual needs we had and not just say something in a sincere attempt to be encouraging. I appreciate your honesty and transparency about this. You are right that most people who say these things don’t mean anything ugly at all, and so we do need to pray for grace in order to be gracious even when people say things that are unknowingly hurtful. But I also love that you are guiding people in how to talk about these kinds of things with people who are suffering. thank you!

    Like

    1. Yay Chelsea. Our family went through years of more crisis than not. The fact that God is always preparing His kids for Heaven and not as much as work on Earth is the last thing I will say to a person in crisis until they reach the stage somewhere beyond PTS, so to speak. Remembering that Jesus is our personal Saviour is vital in counseling the one in crisis. He was preparing my wife & I for the Missions Field, but I have no clue what His plan may be for another Believer. He needed to get my attention especially to hear His “voice of Love for me.” and reject the other voices of the world and the Devil. Why pain? He is wiser than I am…or we are. Music is one of God’s great salves. Even in crisis a Christian may be encouraged to a listen to Andre Crouche’s “Through It All” on YouTube for free.
      Bruce

      Like

  16. Would someone please explain to me how, after reading this article, and especially the comments, anyone would still believe in the existence of any God? Many of those points were exactly what made me determine there could not possibly be a loving, benevolent God. How could any creator of humans allow the suffering that we go through? Please do not respond with the tired reasoning “we all have freewill”. That doesn’t work for me. Even if that were the case, how does MY freewill get to be imparted on YOUR freewill? How do child abusers and molesters get to reign their freewill over the innocent and tender children of this world? Why does someone who boils a baby’s feet get to repent 30 years later, ask Christ into their heart as lord and savior and get to go to heaven but the child who lost their feet, perhaps never able to form any kind of normal relationship, perhaps never hold a job, perhaps suffer mental torment due to the abuse get to burn in hell for all eternity if they don’t accept the very god who allowed their abuse into their heart and life?!
    Can anyone be intellectually honest and answer this?

    Like

    1. I can sense the pain behind your words. I only hope I don’t aggravate that pain.
      I’ll try to answer, because I think your question deserves an answer; just know I am far from being able to answer perfectly.
      I have suffered much in my life – much, much more than I think “fair.” But here’s what I know, from my own experiences. Christ suffered all the pains and afflictions I have ever suffered as part of his atonement in Gethsemane. He also paid the price for all the sins of every living person in that garden. I won’t pretend to comprehend how, but I’ve felt the truth of it.
      Because he took upon himself all our sorrows and infirmities, in the flesh, he knows how to succor us according to the flesh. Does that take away the trials and torment entirely? No. But knowing someone truly understands, has felt what I have felt, and will never abandon me to face it alone brings comfort. I cannot stop believing in God, because how lost and alone would I be in the face of crisis without that reassurance?
      I believe God desires no soul to suffer in hell. He is full of perfect mercy. I believe his arms are, as he’s said so many times, ever extended towards us, ever open, ever pleading, begging to lift our burdens – our torment, whether inflicted upon us or regret caused by our own actions – his arms of mercy remain extended in this life and the life to come. But yes, for that to work, we do have to exercise some amount of faith and trust that He CAN do what He says He can do. Whether we come to that faith in this life or the next makes no difference – God is the same forever, and his bowels are filled with mercy towards us forever.
      In the same garden, God took upon himself all the sins every person will ever commit. Ever. And I know you don’t like it, but I also believe part of the foundation of God’s plan for our development and growth is allowing each and every soul free agency. Some abuse that agency terribly. It is a horrific reality to face. But, again, God is full of perfect mercy. A soul that truly repents, and that’s not easy, can also experience the healing and redemptive power of God’s love and mercy. That is why Christ did what He did. So all can return to him, no matter how great or small our sins – and we all have them. But for that to work, we must also exercise faith, truly repent, and believe that Christ can really do what He says He can do.
      God is our Father. And he is a perfect father. His love for us is perfect and parental. Remember the biblical parable of the prodigal son. What perfect, loving father would not accept his repentant child, would not do everything in his power to bring that child home? Every child. Remember in the parable there were two sons – one who had sinned, and one who had remained faithful. The father received his prodigal son with love and rejoicing when he returned, changed and repentant – would you not do the same for your child? But he also took his faithful son aside, when he felt betrayed that the prodigal son should receive such treatment, and reminded him that he, the faithful son, would inherit all that the father had. A perfect parent loves all his children. A perfect parent would send no child to hell. A perfect parent would provide a way for all of his children to find comfort, relief, healing, and forgiveness. To understand how an abuser and a victim could both end up in heaven, we must remember that God is the perfectly loving parent of both.
      No, that doesn’t make forgiveness easy. No, that doesn’t make our trials easy. No, that doesn’t make life fair. But the beauty of grace is that it makes life NOT fair. For which of us would not accept someone’s offer to pay the price of our sins and carry the burden of our sorrows?
      In the same breath, mercy cannot rob justice. And God is also perfectly just. And because this response is already so long, I’ll just give you a link to a blog post I wrote about this: http://wildtofu.blogspot.com/2013/09/on-forgiveness.html. The point being, God’s mercy does not rob justice because He paid the price for the sinner. He will pay whatever is due to the one sinned against. Payment has already been made. When we forgive, we choose to accept payment from Him instead of the sinner. Often, that is the only payment we can receive. But again, it takes a belief that God exists, that he is both perfectly merciful and just, that he has the power to keep his promises, to make good on them, and to do what he has repeatedly said he will do.
      Not an easy faith to keep. But what are we left with without it?
      And, as stated in the original article, this is NOT the kind of thing you go spouting out to a person in crisis. This is a personal journey, accepting this kind of truth, accepting Christ’s atonement. The original article summed up PERFECTLY how we ought to react to a person in the midst of a crisis. I am only trying to answer “why” I still believe in God, despite all I have suffered and despite all the suffering we witness every day.

      Like

    2. Re; Hannah & Debbie…”God desires that none would perish, but that all would come to repentance” ( sins against God’s Law (X Commandments) ). Many of us have to experience much pain to realize our inability to live without sinning as a way of life. This has nothing to with people with pain beyond our understanding ( the above blog ). But believing in a God who allows the world to be unfair and painful— Most of the pain in this world is not natural disasters, e.g.”Acts of God”; but people hurting people as they SIN, “my will against your will.” Debbie, You left out the 3rd person in the story, God’s will. Since God’s will is that there be no SIN, how can you blame Him for sinful people practicing what He hates. If God made Earth like Heaven, we would ignore Him even more than we humans are already doing. Remember, He tried that before with Adam & Eve. Since He sent His Son to planet Earth, He is consistently trying to remind us that we must escape the Judgement of all who have ever sinned by accepting His Son’s atonement who took all the judgment for sin and the deep pains of sorrow of the world on His cross about 2015yrs ago. Jesus is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Only the self-righteous would say God should say they are Holy because they have not done as “bad” a sin as the murderer, etc. Every single sin cost God’s Son His life on the Cross. Who are you to tell Him you don’t need forgiveness as much as the murderer! If you hated someone, you committed murder, as well. Hannah: The Garden for Jesus was overcoming His being 100%human to desire to hold on to life versus obeying His Father, as 100% God’s Son. . It wasn’t in the Garden.. it was on the Cross. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for sins. Jesus arms are wide open to receive sinners as He received me: a sorcerer in 1973. But we only get one lifetime to accept this free gift of Jesus death to buy us Heaven. “It is appointed man once to die, and then the Judgement.” He will judge the human race which He created. Seems the craftsman and artist has that right, don’t you think? Please see my scientist-sorcerer-saint story on Youtube: The RevBruce..The Moment Your Life Changed. I was rotten to the core, when Jesus found me. Rev Bruce ALLEN

      Like

    3. Dear Debbie B., My children were raised in church. Due to a number of family losses and tragedies, my younger son has asked the same questions and reached the same conclusion as you. He finds comfort in science and identifies as atheist. When he asks me these questions, including “If God exists, who made God?” the only thing I can do is listen to his reasoning and respect his opinion. For me to try to explain my faith without concrete answers to those questions almost seems to be an insult to him. I am saddened that he doesn’t feel faith as his brother did; he may have a lot more peace of mind, but many must find their own way to faith. It cannot be forced. I don’t have the answers, but I respect your point and hope you find peace of mind. My best to you.

      Like

  17. Pingback: conardsinafrica
  18. Thank for all of this new knowledge . I want to know more and be able to emphasize with those that need it. This light bulb came on as I too suffer with depression, when once I was the queen of the hill. How could this happen to me? But reading everyone’s comment and especially, Marilyn’s, I feel a change a comm’in! And so my wish for today is pay it forward. With as little as a smile or a good listening ear.

    Like

  19. As a hospice chaplain, I’ve heard many of these comments and worse. I’ve also seen unspeakable acts of love and kindness as people comforted one another. I read somewhere that Mother Theresa replied to the comment about how much God puts on us. According to what I read she said, “I wish He would’t trust me so much.” Whether this is true or not, it speaks volumes of how those of us who have suffered feel.

    Like

  20. Most of these comments come from a desire to be supportive. There are so many times when we want to express caring for someone, but don’t know what to say. I think that often we actually shy away for fear of saying the wrong thing. Yes there are good suggestions here for other ways to be helpful, but I’m concerned that going too far in critiquing common phrases that people use can heighten the “I don’t know what to say” problem, and reduce support. When I lost my mother a year ago, some of the expressions of caring were more meaningful than others, but I appreciated even the awkward, less than ideal ones.

    Maybe a headline writer put “stupid” in the headline to get clicks. I don’t think that is helpful.

    Like

    1. Yes! Thank you for saying this! Nowadays, the pressure to say “only the right things” is more likely to keep people from saying anything at all. Grace is best-served when it comes from ALL directions. Assuming that people who are trying to comfort you are out to get you with their comments also assumes they aren’t speaking from their own pain – and things that truly helped them (even if they don’t end up helping you).

      Like

  21. I am currently homeless with my wife and 4 kids. After reading this article and the comments to follow I have to say that I am truly blessed. I have friends that ask me how I am doing. They have us over for dinner on occasion.we will go to the soup kitchen and God allows me to brighten others days because of our faith and the things were going through. Life is very hard right now. I spend hours a day in the Word and in prayer. God provides every NEED we have. I don’t need hollow words from those around me. Honestly I don’t think it happens often. I don’t believe it happened because of sin. I believe that God needed someone with great faith in this situation to affect those around me. Do I like not knowing where my family is going to sleep? Absolutely not. I am more blessed than anyone I know though. God has used us in a powerful way. If that is what He needs than I am happy to serve. On another great note being homeless brings a family together like nothing else can. Our family is strong and at the head of that family is God.so even if you don’t want to here those crappy sayings dig into the Word and pray. There isa big ddifference between knowing God and knowing what you have been told about God. The peace you seak comes from a relationship with Him.

    Like

  22. One of the worst for me after my daughter died was”she is in a better place.” How do they know? And no, the better place would have been home with me.

    Like

    1. I’ve said the same before and never realised how it can hurt. What I meant when I said this to my dear friend who lost her 25 year old son to a senseless accident was that I believe he is with our beloved Father. Her brain may know this is true, but her heart aches for him. My comment was wrong to her. I’m sorry for what I said to her and what was said to you.

      Like

    2. As I read this, I thought of a scene from the movie Steel Magnolias. Sally Field’s character (M’Lynn) has just lost her adult daughter and one of the group of women from the hair salon says “Miss M’Lynn – it comforts me to know Shelby is with her King.” To which Sally Field responds with her characteristically awesome acting “Well really Adelle – I guess I’d just rather she be here with me and not with her KIng.” It is so well done, and the idea that the angel words would comfort is ludicrous. I’m honored that you came by – thank you.

      Like

  23. Tuesday, my husband & I celebrated our 25th anniversary. Not one person, from my mother, brothers, daughter, best friend of 40 yrs., bothered to text, call, or send a card to wish us well. Now I know that THIS hurt is not on the same level as losing someone, I lost my dad 4 yrs. ago…that was devastating and doesn’t compare, but it is a hurt none-the-less. When I revealed my hurt to them, I was blamed & told that I had let satan in my head. My reply to them was “No, those who I hold most dear & love hurt my heart,” I did not need a spiritual spanking from them, I needed a hug or an apology at that moment. Telling me that they were just too busy & people have their own lives & schedules was just more hurtful & told me that my husband & I didn’t matter to them. This opened my eyes to be more open to those around me who may just need a shoulder to cry on, a hug, or someone to simply say “you matter!” This article is great insight, thank you for posting it.

    Like

      1. Todd – she wanted to be remembered by the people she remembers and loves. She needed to feel loved in that moment – perhaps there was more going on, and she just needed to know someone cared about her. Don’t we all need that at times?
        What offended her, from what I read, was that when she pointed out that she was hurt, her feelings were invalidated. They said it was her own fault for feeling hurt, rather than really listening and opening themselves up to learn just why she had felt hurt.
        In crises, big or small, we all need someone to listen. When we hurt, and we make ourselves vulnerable by admitting that we are hurting, we need someone to simply say, “I recognize you are hurting. That is hard. But you told me, and now you don’t have to hurt alone.” That’s called empathy.

        Like

    1. It’s a couple of days late Sharon but congratulations on your Silver anniversary! I’ve had this happen to me too and all I can offer is, you’re there together…celebrate it together! Make it as special as it was 25 years ago and don’t let anyone or anything take the joy out of that!! <3

      Like

  24. Oh how I love this post. And the following comments. I am grateful that there are others out there who “get it”.
    I have had much grief and tragedy in my life, so unfortunately I’ve heard each of these well-meaning phrases over the years. And more.
    I remember being told in my small group that ‘suffering happens as a result of sin’. Our five year old son was suffering through cancer at the time. I remember a few days after diagnosis, a well meaning neighbor sending me an article on a specific cause of cancer. A little too late.
    However, I choose to believe that people mean well, and, want to know how to be better. So, in response, I’ve written notes and articles. Pouring my heart out on paper is not only therapeutic for me, but maybe, just maybe, it can help.
    So, while in the midst of those battles, I wrote. About practical love. About a Christian response to suffering. About empathy. About what to say (and not to say).

    Thank you for sharing; all of you !
    These lessons on practical love…keep sharing, because, in the midst of suffering, empathy is a beautiful thing.

    Like

  25. Both this and the follow up article are fantastic. I think that those of us who have suffered the most are often the most able to give care! We simply really deep down KNOW how it feels.

    I have been suffering with Bi-polar depression since the age of 15. Among my youth group at the time I broke down and went into a Psyche ward, I was completely shunned (during and after returning home) All my friends pretty much left I guess because the were afraid of me of didn’t know what to say to me. My family fortunately stuck by me and the pastor of the church who had previously been a nurse did visit me in hospital (for which I will always be grateful)

    Getting back to church after 6 months or so inside! was not easy many avoided me and the feeling that I had was ” he is weird/ a sinner/ tainted” Now I know that some of these thoughts were my own projections and the reality was mostly just the teenage thing and my own awkwardness about what happened to me but……….It hurt like hell!!

    Since reaching adulthood ive probably experienced and definitely been on the end of nearly all of those helpful responses…. I have a lot of guilt, is it my fault? what could I have done differently? is it/was it my sin???
    So my response to these responses has simply been to shut down and avoid company sometimes even my own family when im feeling really bad. I will often hibernate emotionally until I feel ready to connect again. Obs this is not good for my children or my wife.

    My conclusion in all of this over several church communities is that they are far better at handling physical difficulties than anything of a mental health slant.

    I should say also that I guess many of us will have been through situations where we hold things against others and I have CERTAINLY done this. I can say that forgiveness is a big key to starting the healing process, remember we forgive for OUR benefit not for theirs. I have known some healing in my life (im now nearly 40) and most of it started with forgiveness towards others who have hurt me, and myself.

    We cant really love others until we love ourselves ( I know this can be seen as trite but its true)

    thanks for your great article on this subject Id love to see more :) :)

    Like

    1. Oh man – this comment…. so good. I can’t even begin to broach the subject of mental health – because the misunderstandings are so profound and so profoundly painful I remember saying to someone when talking about someone very close to me who was struggling with depression “If they had diabetes out of control, or cancer, I’d have no problem telling people. But the fact that it is depression leaves us so alone.” So, so much to say about this. I am so grateful for you for coming by – thank you.

      Like

    2. I get it. I am of the opinion that if all of us who deal with mental health issues were to be open about it, and help educate those who don’t get it, the world would be changed. I deal with major depression. (I refuse to suffer – pain is inevitable and suffering is optional. But that’s my choice and I don’t get to impose it on others. )
      I take my meds, see my psychiatrist regularly, tell the truth, use my light box and STILL the depression shows up from time to time. I have decided to tolerate the feelings and have identified that the voice that says, “I hate my life” or “This will never pass” is not a truth teller. It is depression. It is not me. It is not God. The power it has is real enough, and it still helps me to label it a liar and the disease. And when I feel that I must die, I wait till tomorrow. And when tomorrow comes and I still feel that way, I again wait until tomorrow. I could not do this alone. I refuse to be stigmatized or silenced by depression. When I am dealing with depression all of my intimates know. I do not keep it a secret. If I kept it a secret, I might not be able to wait until tomorrow.

      Like

    3. MARILYN: Thanks for this excellent article. Listening and practical acts of service really sums it up.

      DANIEL: Sorry to hear mental illness has invaded your life, too. If we could sit down over a Coke or cup of coffee, we probably would have enough stories to fill a book. I had a dramatic, sudden onset of bipolar disorder at the age of 40. Hospitalization was traumatic along with challenges of medications that have side effects. When friends and family withdraw, it’s painful. Many simply don’t know how to support because it’s the first time they’ve had a loved one affected by mental illness.

      In spite of hurdles and challenges, you and I have now have a wealth of lived experience. We can be some of the best support available for others living with mental illness and other grief/loss situations.

      Even in the Bible there are promises of comfort for all for every situation. This passage is a favorite of mine, but I often forget when I’m feeling overwhelmed with life.

      2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV) “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

      In recent years our community opened a Mental Health Wellness Center with NAMI of Central Iowa. There are activities planned each day as well as a place to have supportive conversation. All the participants as well as the coordinator, are adults living with mental illness.

      Daniel, besides the support you and I can offer with family and friends, there are many opportunities to volunteer or be employed in positions to support peers, other adults living with mental illness. There is a credential called (Mental Health) Peer Support Specialist (PSS). I went through the 40 hour training when I was hired last year as coordinator at the NAMI Central Iowa wellness center. After 14 months working there, I was sad to leave, as I needed more time at home with my family. But I still enjoy the friendships and support I had there, whether we gather at the center or outside in the community.

      My hope and prayer is a solid team of supporters for each person living with mental illness. Also support for those who have loved ones coping with mental illness. That’s a stress situation for them too.

      Like

  26. Another platitude I hear quite often-
    ‘I understand….’
    Depending on how deep the pain & the level of being very plain spoken I am at the moment, determines my response. Those two words I try to never use when speaking to a friend in crisis.

    Like

    1. Yes! A dear friend was recently murdered. To his family I have said, “I cannot begin to understand how this is for you. I only know that this hurts beyond what anyone should have to experience. Would it help to talk, or shall we just sit?”

      Like

  27. A variation of “God is good — all the time” (#5) that I have heard is: “Where you are right this moment is God’s best for you.” That just really makes me want to barf. Can you really look someone in the eye (e.g., someone living in a wartorn country in the midst of genocide) and say this? I think it’s a phrase that many middle/upper class Americans can say because for the most part, relative to the rest of the world, it seems believable because of the level of material comfort we have. But ultimately, as mentioned in other comments, I just don’t think that all this pain and suffering was God’s “will” for us. I want to worship a God whose heart breaks over the suffering of His children and whose deepest intention is for redemption, resurrection, healing, and shalom for His creation.

    On a related note, I think a great illustration of the difference between empathy and sympathy is in this simple 2-minute animated short narrated by Brene Brown:

    Everyone should watch this!!!

    Like

    1. Thanks for sharing that quick but spot on video. When my son died it was unexpected and sudden. He was not sick, 29 yrs old and had a heart attack. The people I have appreciated have said things like I don’t know what to say. I have replied that I appreciate that they ask me about him, knowing full well that I will cry but they don’t have to say anything! Being with me, not shying away from my tears and letting me tell you about him and my journey is cathartic!

      Like

    2. The last two line of this video are key. You don’t have to say anything. But I would like to add, spending TIME with people who are hurting helps a lot. That’s even if they don’t want to talk a lot. And you don’t have to fill the void with talk of yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s something that took a while for me to learn. Early on as a nurse, I think I used to try and fill the void with talk. I remember specifically a time when I suddenly realized it was ok and good just to sit with the person. As you say– it wasn’t about me.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Wait for her magical words about how to “be present” with another person, allowing them to grieve. This is brutiful. Find more of her amazing words and work at momastery.com.

      Like

  28. Thank you Marilyn for your “spot-on” article! It is SO insightful and necessary!! I find it interesting that I was introduced to your blog by a Facebook post as I am recovering tonight on the couch from an exhausting day at work, :) I have worked as an oncology nurse (including Hospice) for 30+ years. The blessings, relationships, fatigue, challenges would require an extensive post of my own (and I am technically challenged)! I have heard ALL of the comments you mentioned in your article, hurt for the patients and families hearing them, and grieved when God and our faith journeys receive the “blame” for suffering. Why do we do this to ourselves and each other?! Why do we look for unattainable answers? When we sit quietly with someone, look them in the eyes, and genuinely say “I’m sorry”, that is truly walking with them. Many times we are not comfortable being still, quiet, and facing tragedy together, but this is how we can minister in the name of God. We will mess up as humans, but God has promised to never leave us! He will be there in the unexpected friend visit, the new medicine that helps control the nausea, the day when the pain is better controlled, the patient who reaches out to help others because they understand, the IV that is successful the first time, the sunset that is breathtaking, the note or e-mail that reminds us we are not forgotten, the prayers offered on our behalf. May we learn from each other as we personally suffer, and as we stumble through discovering unique and sincere ways to assist our fellow travellers!

    Like

  29. On a similar note, kind of like the God won’t give you more than you can handle. I’ve heard the comment, it builds character – I am often given to reply that my character is so big it has to duck to get through doorways! Sadly, these types of comments just devalue what you are going through – Bless you all for sharing and Marilyn, this is a wonderful post

    Like

    1. Sometimes it helps to know the life history of some of these spewers of ‘wisdom’.
      Nietzche said: “the which does not kill you makes you stronger”. Having been through hell a goodly number of times in my life, and sensing this didn’t ring true, I read up on him.
      He was a weakling who spent the majority of his life going from spa to spa for treatments for one ailment or the other…making those words hardly that of a ‘strong’ person.

      Like

  30. I have also had deep loss and some of these phrases spoken to me. However, people cannot be expected to know how to best handle every situation, especially believers of differing levels of faith. And I personally would not want someone else (besides family) to do my laundry. You do have control over your own response, maturely and with grace, knowing there was no malicious intent. Where we pastor, there are also chances of misinterpretation due to language barriers. You trust others care…not by their words, but by their love. Even in crisis, you can look beyond yourself.

    Like

    1. I think it is wrong to assume that a person who is in crisis to have control over their responses. I have had 2 great losses in my lifetime, my husband and my son, and both times I was overwhelmed by grief and very angry at times. I isolated so that I wouldn’t spew out anything in anger when I was going through that phase of grief. One of the most hurtful comments made was after the death of my son, a family member said, “Well, you do have two other sons.” Really. I wisely tabled any discussion of that until later. What a person who is ignorant about grief doesn’t understand is that they are contributing to your isolation if they say something powerfully hurtful. I later was able to discuss this with my family member calmly and used it as a teaching moment. Expecting the bereaved to comfort or make comfortable the non-griever is crazy. The family member who made this comment said, “Well, I hope you are more compassionate to those who are trying to comfort you.” REALLY. This is about you?

      Like

  31. I feel really bad every time someone comes to help me, I feel like they are judging me because they have to come and help me out again. I have gotten to the point that I would rather suffer through it alone then to feel like I’m imposing on people and feeling like they are sick of me asking for help and going through tough situations. It just seems like everyone is over the fact that our situation doesn’t seem to be getting better and they all just wish we could move on like they have.

    Like

    1. Rachael, I know that it is so very difficult to ask for help, especially when it is an again situation. Having recently had an arm surgery, (a minor thing in life) I feel guilty asking the clerks and grocery store folks for help loading stuff into my cart or into my car! and that is one of their jobs for goodness’ sake!! One of the questions I have to ask myself, and encourage others to do so, is “if you had a friend who was suffering and needed your assistance, would you help them?” Most all people say yes to this – it feels good to help (and awful to need the help!) So, try to manage, as I’m sure you do, but be aware that you are giving someone the chance to feel good by helping you in your time of need. On another note, sometimes we have to push ourselves to find the resources that we need – check out community programs, etc so that you have someone else to call when you are too tired to deal with that feeling of guilt or shame…..Long winded, I know!

      Like

    2. Thank you for vocalizing this the way you have. This has been an issue of mine for years, and I have been in a depression and severe poverty for most of those years. Try though I might (sometimes to the point of being physically and emotionally overwhelmed), I can’t get myself out of this hole, and I am so tired of the people who don’t help me insinuating that it must be my fault (as if I chose to be born into a poverty-level family) and the people who do…well, exactly as you said. I’m so tired and feel guilty asking for their help.

      Anyway, I’ve never been able to vocalize this feeling well, but I thank you for doing so. You said it perfectly. Thank you for sharing your story with us, and I hope it will get better for you.

      Like

  32. I genuinely appreciate the perspective, and I do take the advice to heart. I also know that today I am prepared to learn this, but at a previous time I was completely clueless, and likely hurt many injured people with my well a intentioned but ‘pain inflicting’ comments. As I now am learning to suffer with the hurting, I am also extending grace to those who don’t know differently.

    Like

  33. Several years ago, I had a miscarriage 2 days after Christmas. The PASTORS of our church came to visit me in the hospital and BROUGHT ME A CHRISTMAS GIFT! I was so numb from losing the baby, and this really was not helpful at all!! Two instances really stand out for me. One relates to the “let me come do your laundry.” I had two friends who just came to my house, didn’t ask, but sat me down at my table and said, tell us what needs to be done. They spent 2 hours there cleaning, picking up, doing laundry. It was exactly what I needed. Another one was a friend who came to me 3 or 4 weeks later, just hugged on me, and said “I am so sorry! I didn’t say anything sooner because I just didn’t know what to say and I didn’t want to hurt you more.” That spoke love to me at the time. Such a good article! Everyone so needs to read this! :-)

    Like

  34. “When God shuts a door, he opens a window. ” Well, crap!!! Maybe I feel like I’m living in a cave! “It gets better.” Oh pulleeeze, so does poop because it turns into fertilizer, but right now this stinks. “When I think of your situation, I’m reminded how blessed I am.” Well, aren’t you just a mountain of condescending righteousness??? That’s all I have to say about all those platitudes. I’m going through a crisis right now and have worn out my knees, cried a river, and felt I am losing my mind. I thank God for my dear friends who are praying right along with me and for me, and my beloved family, and the prayer chain at church.

    Like

  35. Maybe I’m so unalone… is because of the suffering I’ve been through, therefore the deeeeeep empathy and need to help others.
    8 and 9 ♢♡♢♡♢♡ it’s shank time. Hahaah

    Like

  36. I love this so very much. I totally understand each one, add I’m in midst of a series of crisis! I hate when people say, God will only give you what you can handle. I’m a thinker. If that were true, suicide wouldn’t exist, at least not in Christians, right ?? Then it’s a comparison of faith strength. It’s too much.

    Like

  37. I really want to thank you for this article. As a person who suffered a trauma, it makes you feel lonely and terrible to have to rely on others. That even the attention God must be giving you, you are unworthy of. It makes you cherish numbness because you won’t have to make anyone else’s life worse.
    My regret that I had lived a life so selfish and numb that I did not have a person who would put themselves out for me.
    I had always been a person that believed positive thoughts and intentions would protect the mind from tribulation even though bad things would happen. But when you reach the breaking point and your heart goes dead, its really hard to even know what is reasonable anymore. What you need to do, what you need out of life.
    Depression is characterized by a numbness and inability to make decisions. And to have someone reach out to you is so precious. But hearing these things made me feel so guilty that I was not feeling positive. That my good sense wasn’t overtaking my sense of despair.
    You feel like a bad person and a bad christian for no reason other then you are depressed, angry and helpless. And Even God’s love is so constipated that you doubt it.
    I didn’t know why I felt so numb when good people said these things and now I know why. Because maybe they weren’t saying it to help. Maybe there are things I can do and when I feel lonely and isolated its because I am lonely and isolated, and not because I was not “Christianing” hard enough or trying hard enough. And that God’s love is a part of my love for myself. Because there is still a part of my heart that is angry and sick and frustrated that I am not doing everything I can. That that is my true self refusing to let my heart die, and that may be the only part of me that God instilled in me. That depression over things not working out is the faint whisper of the divine forcing me to carry on.
    Its not that God has a plan, or that I can give into some cosmic ennui. Its that God made me and I will always have myself. No one can take that away from you.

    Like

    1. My heart is literally aching with you right now. 4 years ago this was me exactly. Nothing else to say except I love you and my heart is empathising at this moment. I still struggle with all that you have said all the time.

      Like

  38. I came here from a family member’s share and I just love this post! We recently went through a loss, and I was so frustrated with the platitudes. I understand people don’t know what to say, but they clearly don’t think critically about the implication of these platitudes they use to fill space, and sometimes they can really be hurtful. You’ve done an outstanding job of explaining that.

    One that particularly irked me was the “We can’t know why these things happen, God works in mysterious ways” brand of platitude. I heard it again and again. Theologically, we know exactly why this happens. Romans 1:12 tells us that “through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” We are subject to death because of Adamic sin. This is no mystery, but in fact, the entire theme of the Bible – how that sin came upon us and how we will be rescued from it through the mercy of God and Christ.

    On the point of God being “in control” though, I would ask “of what?” The bad things that happen to us in this world are not trials that God has engineered. (James 1:13 – When under trial, let no one say: “I am being tried by God.” For with evil things God cannot be tried, nor does he himself try anyone.) The scriptures make it clear that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19, compare Luke 4:6). They happen because Satan has been allowed to rule this world temporarily, but as John 12:31 tells us, that will come to an end. Saying “God is in control” when someone is suffering implies that your suffering is something God initiated, which is inconsistent with the idea of a God of love. (1 John 4:8) (There’s a great article on why God permits – not causes – suffering here: http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1102005141 )

    Thanks for a great and thought-provoking article!

    Like

  39. Marilyn, thanks so much for this…a wonderful post! Taken from a painful crisis experience in my own life, I would add one item to your list of what NOT to say/do to someone in crisis. It would be this: When someone is in crisis, do not try to help them identify what THEY DID to contribute to, or cause, the crisis situation. This is not helpful. At all. Yes, the person who is in deep emotional pain at the moment may have made bad choices that contributed to the current situation, but they do not need to be “called out” on that right now. What they need is your love, support, encouragement, and presence. There will be time for reflection and critical self-evaluation later…not now. And, chances are, the person in crisis may already be fully aware of what they did to contribute to the situation, which makes it all the more painful…in which case, you’re pouring salt on an already-open wound.

    Like

    1. So so true, and it hurts so much, especially when it comes from family members. But unfortunately people get so caught up in life and in other things that take their attention that they just want to quickly try to help you fix your problem so they can get back to living life. We need to slow down and take time to care about others

      Like

  40. #10 rang a bell for me. When my wife was dying, plenty of people laid on the “if there’s anything I can do..” line. I did ask one person for something I thought was simple. She refused. Because of that I will never fully trust this individual again.

    Other people have told me this is a common experience. Many of the people who say “call me if you need anything” dread that someone in crisis might actually do so.

    Like

    1. When my husband was deployed and we had recently been stationed in a new town, I broke and needed to go to the hospital with suicidal thoughts. Everyone I asked in our church to watch my kids told me no and just to deal.

      I hope you don’t mind me posting my poem about that. Writing is healing. I wish healing for each of you whose stories I read here.

      Like

  41. #1 is not theologically correct. God never says He’ll never give us more than we can handle. He says “My grace is sufficient for you.” If we could handle everything ourselves, we wouldn’t need God. There are 3 things to say to the suffering:
    1. I am so sorry.
    2. I will be praying for you.
    3. Let me: run your errands/watch your kids/ clean your house/ bring you a meal/ fill in the blank.
    Give them space if that’s what they want, or just sit a listen (with your mouth shut) if that’s what they tell you they need.

    Like

  42. Also, Marilyn, I want you to know that I will follow through with reading the sites that you posted. I’m sure I will learn much, as well as receiving solace. Thank you!

    Like

  43. Yes! This goes straight to my heart. And with tears in my eyes. How many times, over the past few years, have I wished for someone to come “do my laundry” or “take this journey with me.”
    I will email this sensitive and astute article to my well-intentioned husband. And maybe one very good friend.
    Thank you, Marilyn! This article has given strength, and all of the replies, to turn my eyes to God, once again. <3

    Like

  44. I enjoyed this article. I was diagnosed with several chronic diseases, mostly Rheumatology type, several have connected diseases so learning to live with them was/is a huge challenge. I was raised in a Christian home, my husband was also raised in a Christian home and thus we raised our 3 sons in a Christian home. We attended the same church throughout our childhood and throughout my diagnosis and beyond. I was so surprised by the responses I received from childhood friends, fellow church members, family members, even people in ministry (not just my church) but even in others. I went through everything you talked about in your article. I often compared my emotions to that of someone going through loss of a loved one. I lost so much of myself when I was diagnosed, my job, my physical ability, my memory, my thoughts and most importantly respect. I became depressed, me depressed, this was something I never thought I would experience, EVER. I was always fun, life of a party, I had the ability to dish it out and take it right back. Now if anyone said anything in jest or not I took it to heart and began to think I was the worst person, not a Christian, I had done something to deserve this, I felt so guilty that I had done this and my family had to suffer the consequences. When we lost our home because I was no longer working and my medical bills were mounting, more guilt was placed on me. Not by anyone but myself. The lies you believe when hardships come are only enhanced by well meaning people who seem to say the wrong thing all the time. For me with my guilt and depression it did not take much to push me over the edge. Please be careful people we are already bruised.

    Like

  45. “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is NOT theologically correct. In fact Scripture says the exact opposite. “In the world you WILL HAVE tribulation, but take heart, for I have overcome the world!” John 16:33. Jesus says we can’t handle it, but he has overcome it already. I have firsthand experience with these sayings as I have a chronic illness. The best thing is

    Like

    1. Thanks so much for commenting. I just responded to someone else on this thread that had a problem with the theologically correct statement. It was a gut reaction to the article I sited there. I love your words about the hug – the importance of presence and physical touch.

      Like

  46. This. is. amazing. I adore it. I am passionate about this and you wrote an awesome piece on it as if you were reading my mind. Time to take off the mask fellow Christians!! Be who God wants you to be! The real you. The messy you. God can handle it. And he can handle it even when we can’t say God is good all the time or God is in control so I shouldn’t be worrying. He is big enough.

    Like

  47. Thank you SO much for this! I have heard them all…and now I feel SO much bbetter about my lack of response to them…sometimes the things people say are just to hurtful (even though it is unknowingly so) to be able to respond in any reasonable way…so, I get the punch in the face thought…yeah, that…sigh…
    In addition to your list, I was never sure how to respond to the folks who told me that they were so glad to know me and my struggle because it made them more thankful…it is just really hard to be that kind of object lesson!
    Thank you for increasing awareness of how debilitating crisis times can be!

    Like

    1. Oh my gosh…. yes! That last one you wrote belongs here. You sit there dumbfounded, thinking has God really made me an object lesson? Do I exist so that others can be thankful that they aren’t me? SO painful. Or the “I could never go through what you’re going through….” That’s so awful to. So glad to have you come by and add to this conversation.

      Like

  48. thank you for this post. we lost our 29 year old about 18 months ago to a sudden heart attack. we have heard some well meaning phrases. i understand the intention. i would be rich by now if i had a dollar for every time I heard, call me if you need anything!

    Like

    1. We just lost our 28 year old son August 16th. He was struck by a car and died on impact. Another difficult comment? “No, really, how ARE you?” Sometimes, it’s hard not to say “Oh, my son is dead, but I’m GREAT!” They don’t mean to offend, they mean to be kind and I know that. The best response, to me, is when people ask me about my son and take an interest in his life. Thank you for a wonderful article.

      Like

  49. I would add: Follow through, or don’t offer at all. After my husband died, I slept and went to work, dragging myself through each day. A coworker was concerned and said I needed to get out of the house, how about a movie on Saturday? That sounded like a good first outing, and it gave me something to look forward to. On Saturday morning she called and asked which movie I wanted to see and that she wanted to take me to dinner first. Dinner? I told her I’d understood that we’d be going to an afternoon show. Oh, she thought I had plans for the afternoon…..

    ??Plans!!?? The whole point of getting me out of the house was that I had no plans! I could sit home all afternoon without her ‘help’.

    The only benefit from this was that I got so Tee’d off, I got in the car and drove to the cinema and watched a movie. Alone. But hey, I was out of the house…

    Like

    1. I’m so glad you went anyway. That is so brave. It’s interesting too that there are some people, that I totally trust, that could actually say some of these things to me, and I would be okay – because our relationship is so deep. Others – the punching – oh the punching…!

      Like

  50. Ah, all those handy, Christian catch phrases. I wish we were all so much more attentive to the things that just roll off our tongue. They sound so outwardly pious, but betray a lack of real personal communication. Thanks for this post.

    Like

  51. Thank you so much for your insight drawn from years of working with people in pain, people in the midst of horrible experiences. Yes, I’ve found these “Christian platitudes” to be unnecessary at best, and sometimes downright hurtful. I immediately thought of one of the worst times in my life, about 23 years ago.

    Yes, I was “running” as fast as I could, working my socks off for God in the church. Just finished leading a youth performance, and my personal life was crumbling around my ears. I was trying to decompress at the refreshment table when a bubbly older person came up to me, saw me obviously having some internal difficulty, and out popped the verse “And we know that all things work together for good, to them that love God.” This was delivered in a sunny, off-hand manner. And then this person just breezed off, not even waiting for any response from me. As you said in your post, remember what you said about punching people in the face? Yeah, that.

    Like

    1. Unnecessary and hurtful – yes! I think some of it is that we memorize these and they roll off our tongues without thought. Either that or we ignore the person completely. I think I’d ask you – what have you found helpful to say? it’s not people who I am close to that I worry about. it’s those who i feel deeply for, but I don’t have a close relationship.

      Like

      1. Hmm. What have I found helpful to say to people? Sometimes I am tongue-tied. I can’t think of kind or helpful things to say. Sometimes, I am ashamed to say, I do duck those interactions, when I don’t feel like I have a close enough relationship. But i try to use the less-anxious presence I’ve developed as a chaplain. (I bet you know the awkward/anxious feeling that some people have around illness, or hospice, or death! Palpable, icky-feeling, at times!)

        And when I’ve been thrust into the middle of an end-of-life situation, or a hospital room with a severely ill person, or sitting next to someone who just got traumatic news? I am focused on the people who are there, who I’m trying to minister to. One of my seminary professors was SO wise and awesome. I took Ministry with Survivors of Human Rights Abuse from her. I learned so much about the ministry of presence and accompanying hurting people with a compassionate, gentle, kind and caring presence. She would totally advocate the quote attributed to St. Francis: “Preach the Gospel at all times. And when necessary, use words.”

        Like

  52. I used to think and most likely say . “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” But oh how wrong that thinking is. Think about it. If we can handle whatever He gives, WE are handling it! But we know, that we can’t handle it, that is the spot He wants us BECAUSE it is in our weakness that HIS strength is present and visible, not ours. And what do I want to hear from others? We can walk this journey together, I am here with you, and just for others to acknowledge that this is indeed tough.

    Thank you again Marilyn for such a practicle post to better equip us to care for those around us.

    Like

    1. It is not cynical. When you meet people and hear their stories of weathering diasasters, the depression of the 20’s, etc, you hear fond and cherished stories around the community of suffering. I recall also the 10 days I gave hospice care to a friend along with a group of friends and those days are still cherished in our memories because of the intimacy and shared care.

      Like

    2. “We can walk this journey together” – yes that’s it. Like Chaplain Liza above, I’d like to pick your brain about what you have found helpful in hospice.

      Like

  53. Thank you. I’ve been pretty enraged by the platitudes of some in the church recently. There is nothing but a door being shut when your parent is suffering a horrific terminal illness. It’s a horrifyingly bleak experience. I don’t know how not to be angry at God right now, when I talk about it I’m shut down for doing so. When all I really want is for someone to agree that it’s just awful and that God doesn’t seem to be easily found in any of this! Xx

    Like

    1. Dear, dear Narnian Queen, I So wish I could put my arms around you and let you cry on my shoulder. I pray that someone there will come along side to help, to walk with you through this so hard journey. Loving you over this distance.

      Like

    2. Since your name includes the word “narnia” I assume you know of C.S. Lewis. Have you ever read A Grief Observed? It’s writings from his journal after the death of his wife. During those times when I don’t think I can stand the pain, or begin to feel angry at the unfairness of misery, it’s an immense help to read that and see that even this champion of Christianity was angry with God, and wondered how he could allow this unfathomable suffering. It doesn’t really have all the answers, but sometimes that’s not what you’re looking for- and sometimes there simply aren’t any answers! So it’s a good read when you just want to feel that you’re not alone in this anguish and doubt.

      My heart aches for you, I can’t imagine what you must be going through but I can certainly agree that it is awful and impossible to understand!

      Like

    3. Narnian queen — What you are going through is awful. I haven’t been through the exact situation but I understand. I do understand why you are mad at God. Express that anger but not to others because most folks are struggling to hold on to their belief in God and this is why they can’t deal with your honest and raw emotion. :-) This is why they shut you down.

      The outlook is not joyous and you may wonder why your parent has to die like this and I have no answer.

      You have a right to be upset and frustrated. You are going through a terrible time and there seems to be no relief. You are frightened because everything is so uncertain. You have a right to be angry – this is horrible for you and your parent. Where is the God everyone talks about to at least relieve your parent of some of the suffering? Yep you have a right to be angry. Scream. Cry. Curse. Get it out.

      And then know — this will not persist forever. Steady yourself and seek your peace in knowing this period will come to an end — you will and CAN get on the other side of this.

      Sending encouragement from afar.

      Like

      1. Thanks. I get the impression that many of my parents church friends are dumbfounded by this happening to a missionary. These are the same people who when I was disabled at the age of 23 queried what I had done to bring such a punishment. I hate knowing some of them are probably thinking the same about mum.
        It is very hard to see my parents suffering so much.

        Like

    4. It’s okay to be angry with God. This is a quote from a blog post I wrote about a very different trial from your current one, but one that devastated me all the same (years of infertility and miscarriages). Don’t know if it will help, but maybe… Just know you are not alone in feeling this way.
      “As you can see, my frustration with infertility was aimed at two targets: God and myself. And I am not ashamed to say what you may need to hear: I hated us both for it. I didn’t hate God in a “I’m going to stop believing in you” kind of way, but you can bet he heard a lot of angry prayers from me. A lot.
      “Here’s what I’ve learned about those kinds of prayers: God loves them. He gets them. He UNDERSTANDS them. And even if we’re too angry to feel it, I visualize a daughter, sobbing into her father’s chest, beating her fists against him in helpless, overwhelming emotion; and the Father, wrapping His arms around His precious daughter, resting His chin atop her head, and crying with her. So don’t be afraid to vent to God–He’s right there with you. This is a hard thing, and He understands hard things. He knows this isn’t a time to “grin and bear it,” or a time for “pretty please with a cherry on top” prayers. “

      Like

      1. Thank you. I’m sorry you’ve gone through the pain of miscarriages. Truely heartbreaking. Im an auntie of 4 kids but only one wasn’t stillborn. So I can only begin to imagine the heartache you’ve been through.

        I feel helplessly angry a lot at the moment, I think its the fact that theres nothing I can do to save mum from immense suffering.

        Like

  54. This is not a cynical post at all, Marilyn! Yours are important, potentially healing words that encourage us to use actions to be supportive rather than mouthing empty, thoughtless, often heartless statements. I LOVE this post.

    Like

Comments are closed.