Summary: We’ve all been around people who are suffering. When someone around us is suffering, those can be some of the most helpless times of your life. What do you do? What do you say? How should you react? That is what we will look at today in this message
We have all had someone close to us have to go through suffering. Whether it was someone as close as a spouse or a child, or whether it was only a friend or even an acquaintance. We’ve all been around people who are suffering. And I don’t know about you, but those times can be some of the most helpless times of your life. What do you do? What do you say? How should you react? In those verses we just read, we see Job’s friends’ greatest moment. They did everything right in three verses. And then for 33 chapters, they completely undid any good they did in those three verses. We like to give Job’s friends a hard time. But I would say that there is not one of us in this room who has not made some of the same mistakes they did. The fact is that suffering is hard. It’s hard to understand. It’s hard to endure. But I think sometimes more than that, it’s hard to watch. It’s hard to watch, because we want to do something to help. And more than that, the person who is suffering wants us to do something to help. But the problem is, most of the time, we can’t. And that’s tremendously frustrating. Did you know that’s what drives many people to pursue their career? When you begin to look into the backgrounds of many nurses... you’ll find that they went into nursing because of the impact of having to watch someone close to them physically suffer. The same thing happens with people who go into psychology. Many people go into psychology because of the impact of having to see someone close to them go through mental suffering. The same thing even happens with people who go into the ministry. Many people go into the ministry after seeing people struggle with their faith to the point of risking eternal suffering. One of the most helpless feelings you will ever face is when someone around you is suffering. I remember when Miranda was pregnant with Kyla. We went through all of the childbirth Lamaze classes. Do you know what the amazing thing about those classes is? They actually had me convinced that I was going to have some part in the delivery. And I was ready. I had all the steps down. I knew how to coach her with her breathing. I was fully prepared. Until we got to the hospital. And when we got to the hospital, I was about as useful as Job’s friends. I might have had a good moment or two like they did. But most of it was worthless. Why was it worthless? Because I kept trying to do something to make it better. And when someone is going through a time of suffering, they don’t need you to do something. Most of the time, they just need you to be something. Don’t get me wrong. Many times people need practical things done for them. I’m sure that Job could have used help later on rebuilding his house or getting back on his feet. But this wasn’t the time for that. This was the time when Job needed comfort and encouragement. And that’s the hardest thing for us to do most of the time. Because, by nature, most of the time we would rather do than be. But that’s just the opposite of what a person who is in the throes of suffering needs. So that’s how we’re going to look at this tonight. First, we’re going to look at some of the “don’t do’s” and some of the “do be’s”. First, the “don’t do’s”.
When someone close to you is suffering, don’t minimize it or overdramatize it. Those are two sides of the same coin. Minimizing suffering is saying something like, “Oh, it’s not really that bad.” “You should have seen what I went through last year.” On the other hand, overdramatizing it is saying something like, “Oh, my cousin had that same thing right before she died.” “They say she was in terrible shape.” We need to be careful not to compare one person’s suffering with another. The fact is, you might have gone through the same thing last year and it wasn’t any big deal to you. But to the person who is suffering, their suffering is real. It is personal. It’s not the same as your cousin’s. Each of us has a different reaction to pain. Each of us reacts differently to difficulty. Each of us reacts differently to emotional hardship. So something that might not bother me at all, might be a really big deal to you. And if it’s a big deal to you, then I need to approach you where you are. Not where I think you should be. Don’t minimize or overdramatize another person’s suffering.