Recently, I was in the situation of trying to give comforting words to someone grieving and to someone who is currently waiting for the other shoe to drop. Lately, I have also been, in both of those positions myself. Amazingly, having been in the grieving role and the waiting role previously did not bring great words of healing immediately to my lips. This entry is not meant as an indictment to myself or others for not having right words at the ready, but more as an exploration.
It is not my desire to awaken any false concerns. So, before starting this exploration, let me just say that of late I had some aches and pains that could possibly have been cancer related. In various places around the rib cage, I was having pain. After the return of the test results (which were all good), I came to this theoretical explanation of the pain as a physical therapist: when one has breast reconstruction and the pects are stretched over implants, the dynamics are changed. As activity increases, naturally, there will be some soreness. However, all of that is an aside and not the subject of this entry.
When I shared that I once again had the sword of Damacles hanging over my head, my small group had very little to say to me. They listened and asked a few very caring questions. They looked at me with love in their eyes, and they prayed for me. My sweet Lee and a good friend in Canada did exactly the same. Never did I feel any remonstration for sharing my concerns or for being transparent. Nor did I feel that I needed to put on a fake front in any way. When I had a temporary relapse into my old false refuge of junk food, they all just let me know that they were giving me prayer support and that today is a day to start afresh. With help like that, I was able to return to return fairly quickly to resting peacefully in my Father God’s arms.
That being the good example of comfort, let me share a not so great one: “I had a friend with cancer who tried (whatever the person has chosen for treatment), and she is dead now”. Death may be part of life, however, relating victories would be more helpful in encouraging someone to fight the good fight. Also, keep in mind that even if you think what they have chosen for treatment is stupid, they made the decision with all the resources available to them. And, battling cancer may involve a different pathway for each person.
Here are other words that are always welcome: “I love you.” “I am here for you.” “I am praying for you.” “I am hurting with you.” “I am so sad that you are going through this.” and “How can I help?”
When those words are sincerely meant and backed up with action, they are powerful.
A simple hug can be tremendously healing. Someone sharing your hurt silently can be a great comfort. Tears without any words can be helpful also. The right Bible verse at the right time can be perfect.
To conclude this small exploration, words are important. Being thoughtfully prepared to comfort hurting people is important. With God’s help, we will all improve in this.