One of the Worst Things to Say to a Believer Who is Hurting-Repost

I want to follow up on my two-part series on Polly Positive to bring you this article I wrote many years ago for my Art of Eloquence communication blog. I was talking about how we communicate with those who are struggling with chronic illness actually affects them, even if the person’s intentions are good. While Polly’s intentions are to bring the person back to Jesus, the timing isn’t right and the message that comes across is quite damaging and, in fact, not biblical:

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” -Proverbs 16:24

Sad

I’ve seen it so many times. A sister in the Lord opens up to share a struggle she is going through in the hopes that the fellowship will bring strength to a weary heart. Instead of support, sympathy or understanding, she receives condemnation by well-meaning and faith-filled believers. In place of words of peace and comfort, they rebuke the poor sinner for not having enough faith. They remind her of the mustard seed, how faith can move mountains and how big God is, but what does that do to her suffering? Does it relieve her suffering or does it, in fact, increase it and place the blame squarely on her?

This is actually one of the worst things you can communicate to a believer who is hurting. Why? Because what you’re saying is:

1. Your suffering is your fault

By telling a believer that she doesn’t have enough faith in God, you are telling her that she wouldn’t be suffering if she only had more faith. Since she either doesn’t believe she has little faith or doesn’t see how she can have more, she feels you are telling her that she is ONLY suffering because of her own lack of faith. Essentially, this belittles her suffering. After all, people don’t feel as sorry for those who cause their own suffering as we do for those who are suffering through no fault of their own.

2. You wouldn’t suffer if you only had more faith

After being told she has caused her own suffering through unbelief, the only option given her is more belief. This is sort of like telling someone “Be happy!” Have you ever been upset and been faced with a situation in which you had to go out and put on your happy face? It was difficult, wasn’t it? Magnify that tenfold and think how difficult it would be to put on your happy face after having lost a loved one to cancer or after being faced with financial ruin. Can they do it? I’m sure some could, but what does it require? It usually requires a time of mourning, a time of rebuilding after a period of support and strength that comes from fellowship. Telling someone to have faith after you just told them they didn’t have any, isn’t helpful and it can be a huge detriment to their ability to bounce back after a devastating event.

3. Your suffering is not going to stop until you have more faith

This poor hurting soul who was reaching out for comfort and strength is now frustrated because she is being told that, no matter how the struggle began, it is now her fault, the only cure is more belief and she cannot find an ounce more in her suffering so it’s never going to end. She is now convinced her suffering will go on indefinitely! Struggles are difficult enough when we believe they are somewhat temporary, but when we see no end in sight, struggles take on new depths of sorrow.

We can all build our faith. Even the most faith-filled Christian can become even stronger in the Lord, but this growing in faith usually comes after a period of mourning the loss at the root of the struggle and a period of gathering strength from family, friends and the Lord.

Telling someone their suffering comes from their unbelief is unbiblical. Here are just three examples from scripture:

1. If all suffering comes from not having enough faith, why was Paul suffering?

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” -2 Corinthians 12:7

2. If all suffering can be reversed by having more faith, why wasn’t Paul healed?

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” -2 Corinthians 12:8

3. If Christians are not supposed to discuss their feelings when they are suffering, how can you explain Job?

“Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.” –Job 23:2

And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” –Job 42:10

Telling a person who is suffering, especially when the suffering is new, that they simply need more faith is not only unhelpful, but it can frustrate and depress the person even further. This is where more communication skill is needed. Be careful at this vulnerable time in this believer’s life that you are part of the solution and not part of the problem

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29

Please share your comments, thoughts, and experiences here.  I’d love to hear from you.

Please follow and like us:

Paul vs Job: Part 7 The Needs of the Suffering

So far in this series I’ve shared about the reason I began looking into this topic of Paul vs Job-about how I could never find a devotional that went beyond the fact that we should be joyous and have faith and that we’d be healed in Heaven.  I also shared about the differences between Job and Paul.  I shared the lessons we can learn from Job and the lessons we can learn from Paul.  I talked about how there are differences between struggling through short-term trials and ones that are long term. Next, I talked about what the Bible says about suffering and what the Bible says about joy in suffering.

At this point, I’d like to take a moment to share more about what got me started looking into Paul and Job.

People who don’t have chronic illnesses or long-term financial (or other) issues just don’t understand what that means and so they’d say things to me like:

“I understand how you feel because I’ve had a cold recently.”
“But you don’t look sick!” or “It could be worse.”
“If you only had more faith…”
“Don’t you WANT to feel better?”
“Just be more positive.”
“Job was given everything he lost and more!”

Some were well-meaning. Others were just mean. LOL  Both just had no idea that they were making it worse for me.  Job’s trails were not permanent. Paul’s were.

Why was there no study on how Paul was able to have the joy despite NOT being healed and living his life being persecuted and ultimately jailed?

Here’s what I longed for someone to say:

“I’m so sorry you’re hurting.”
“I’m here for you.”
“Tell me about your disease/problem.”
“How can I help?”
“If you’d rather not talk about it…”
“I admire your courage and strength.”
“You’re an inspiration/encouragement.”

I have still not found a devotional about how Paul was able to find the joy in the midst of his long-term trials, but what I have found is what helps ME see the joy in the midst of several chronic illnesses, financial instability, and surgeries.

Next week, I’ll be sharing some insights of my own about living with chronic issues.  Then the following week, I’ll share what I have found by going back to read Paul’s letters.

 

Please follow and like us:

Paul vs Job Part 6: What the Bible Says About Joy in Suffering

When I first began looking for how to have joy in the midst of struggles, I found lots of references to joy in suffering though I didn’t find exactly how we were to do that.  I felt at this point in the series, I’d share some of what I found.  I think it helps us to know that others found joy in the midst of suffering, struggles, and trials.  And it helps to read the words that share that joy in the scriptures.

I found a reference that said there are 132 references to rejoicing in the Bible, but I found a few that were most relevant to us here.  So this is just a collection of scriptures that share about joy in the midst of trials:

“And not only this, but we glory in afflictions also, knowing that afflictions work out patience,” -Romans 5:3

“rejoicing in hope, patient in affliction, steadfastly continuing in prayer,” -Romans 12:12

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for your reward in Heaven is great. For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” -Matthew 5:12

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy. For behold, your reward is great in Heaven. For so their fathers did according to these things to the prophets.” -Luke 6:23

Then indeed they departed from the presence of the sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be shamed for His name.” -Acts 5:41

as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things.” -2 Corinthians 6:10

who now rejoice in my sufferings on your behalf, and I fill up the things lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, on behalf of His body, which is the church;” -Colossians 1:24

For you both sympathized with my bonds and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that you have in Heaven a better and an enduring substance.” -Hebrews 10:34

 

Please follow and like us:

Paul vs Job Part 5: Suffering in the Bible

Going through difficult times sure doesn’t feel good.  Often we don’t have any idea why or how any good could come of it, but the Bible speaks about the lessons and benefits we can gain from suffering. I have found seven of them that helped bring my own struggles into focus.

1. Suffering produces intimacy with God.
Job 42:5 says, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.” Job learned more about God through his suffering.  I believe that is one of the greatest benefits of struggle if we draw near to Him during the trial.  When we are going along in Happyland, we don’t have as much motivation to meditate on God’s Word or to pray or stop and listen to Him.  It’s during our times of suffering that we draw near to hear Him and that will lead us into a closer relationship and intimacy with God.

2. Experiencing God on a Deeper Level.
It just follows that greater intimacy with the Lord will lead to a deeper relationship with Him.  The closer we get to someone, the more we understand the person and the greater we feel we can rely upon them. The same is true with God.  The deeper we go, the more we will be able to trust Him even in our darkest hours.

3. Equips us to comfort others in need.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” I know how my own struggles have given me experiences that I have been able to share with others to help them through similar issues.  That’s the whole reason for this blog and my Facebook group.

4. Comfort comes easier from those who’ve struggled.
People who are suffering tend to feel more comforted by those who have been there.  I think that is why the Bible details so much of Job’s and Paul’s struggles.  We not only gain comfort from reading about these men, but as Paul writes, we can use our own struggles to comfort others because they will know that we truly understand.

5. Suffering gives us strength.
I know it seems counter intuitive, but if you think about it, both Job and Paul were stronger for the suffering they endured.  Paul’s courage is evident as I shared a few weeks ago.  It’s very much like our muscles that atrophy if not used and strengthen as we work out.  Our courage, is much like that.  It’s strengthened when we need to use it.   I had ankle surgery and wasn’t able to walk for months.  I’m now working to gain back the muscle I lost in my right foot which is now visibly thinner than my left.  My suffering has given me strength to move forward because I see many of the problems that come my way now more like small bumps in the road where as I had once seen them as mountains.

6. Suffering produces growth and maturity.
James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  I know it sounds like there should be an easier way to gain growth and maturity, but there really isn’t.  Remember when your mother called your aches growing pains?  And how companies that grow into large organizations have growth problems to deal with?  Well, it’s the same with us.  We cannot grow and mature without some growing pains…suffering.

7. Suffering conforms us to God’s image.
Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  If you think about it, Jesus did the ultimate suffering for the good of us all.  Our suffering, though to us humans, feels so bad, it can’t compare to what Jesus suffered.  And think about how the Father must suffer seeing His Son and so many of His children suffer. All parents hearts ache when their children struggle.  As we suffer trials, we become more like Jesus and closer to the Father.

Suffering is no fun. I’ll be the first to admit that I’d never choose it and would be the first to admit I’ve prayed for it to stop every single time rather than having to go through all the struggles I have.  But I am also the first to admit that, without those same struggles I’d have prayed away, I wouldn’t be the person I am today with a more intimate, deeper relationship with my God, the ability to comfort others for I have also struggled, and the strength, growth and maturity to be more conformed to God’s image.  What about you?

 

 

Please follow and like us: