Summary: When someone passes away unexpectedly, we often are left without knowing what to say. Through the story of Lazarus' death, we can see some things we can say when we do not know what to say.

“What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say”


There are not many times when I am left speechless. I’m often told that I have a tendency to not be quiet and listen — that I actually talk too much.

When I first heard of Debbie’s passing, however, I found myself without words to say.

When someone is taken from us so unexpectedly, all of us I believe find ourselves not knowing what to say.

How do we comfort each other? What can we possibly say?

There are so many unanswered questions.

So many things we may never know in this life.

But maybe that’s OK. Maybe we do not have to have all of the answers. Maybe we do not have to know all of the perfect things to say.

I don’t think God expects us to always have the perfect words to say to each other. After all, none of us are perfect.

We all do, however, experience all kinds of emotions and feelings.

We share those feelings and emotions.

Those are things which bring us together.

Consider for a moment today the context to the scripture I read from John 11 earlier. It is the story of the death of Jesus’ good friend Lazarus.

Lazarus has already passed away, and picking up in verse 17, we read:

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11, NIV)

1. Today, when we do not know what to say, we should comfort each other.

In the passage, we read that many Jews had come from Jerusalem to be there with Mary and Martha.

I’m sure that as they gathered at Lazarus’ house, they shared stories and remembrances of Lazarus.

I’m sure they asked each other, “Do you remember the time when Lazarus did this?”

Or, “Do you remember the time when Lazarus told that story?”

They came to offer support and comfort to Mary and Martha who were grieving the loss of their brother.

That is exactly what we should do as well.

When we don’t know what to say, stop and share memories of our loved one.

(use this section to share memories about the deceased – these were some of my memories of the church member who had passed)

If you knew anything about Debbie, it was that she loved sports. She loved Virginia Tech football. She also loved baseball. And specifically those New York Yankees.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you know anything about me, I have always been a Cincinnati Reds fan.

When I started preaching at Level Green, my iPad cover with a Cincinnati Reds logo was one of the first things Debbie noticed. And she gave me a hard time about it.

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