Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can fully share its joy. Proverbs 14:10 NLT
Saying life sucks may be one of the greatest understatements ever. Yet it is so true. Bad things happen. We experience loss, hurt, and betrayal. Things don’t turn out the way we hoped they would. These things, and a whole lot more, enter our world and make life a very difficult experience.
When talking to a hurting person, I find one of the most unhelpful things we can say is, “I understand.” When I hear those words I want to scream, “NO YOU DON’T!” Even if you have experienced something very similar, you have no idea what I am going through. I will relate to my pain differently than you will relate to yours. My loss will affect me differently than your loss affected you. This is the point of the proverb I have quoted above. We really don’t know what others are going through.
A Better Way
So what would be a better way to relate to someone that’s hurting? Try this on for size.
“I’m sorry that happened.”
When we say something like this, we are acknowledging that something bad has happened. We also acknowledge that whatever happened has affected them badly. We acknowledge their pain and communicate that we are right there with them in the midst of it.
How about this one?
“How can I help?”
This question goes beyond merely acknowledging the hurt. It communicates that we are willing to be part of the solution. It lets the person know we are more than just a passive observer. We are making ourselves available to be actively engaged in their lives.
Rejoicing & Weeping
The apostle Paul said it this way in Romans 12:15.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. ESV
This calls for us to put ourselves in another person’s place. Whether weeping or rejoicing, we are entering the other’s world and actively participating in their life. This is what love does. Love is what life looks like when we are living in the Reign.