3 Things You Should Never Say to Someone Who is Suffering
As Christians with hope in Christ, we always want to share that hope with others. When we see someone who is
enduring the pain and problems of this life, we want to encourage them with just the right words. Our hearts are
in the right place, but sometimes our words are really not that helpful. They can even be hurtful.
In the story of Job’s suffering, some friends with the best of intentions are hoping to help out good ol’ Job.
Everything was going fine until they started talking! In Job 2:13 we read of the great compassion of Job’s
friends, “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him,
because they saw how great his suffering was.” Imagine an entire week just sitting there without saying a word!
That was the most helpful thing they did! In Job 4, a friend of Job’s begins speaking, trying to explain why
God is doing what He is doing in Job’s suffering. It was all downhill from there! Instead of helping, those wellmeaning
men made Job’s suffering worse with their words. I know we don’t want to commit the same error.
Here are 3 things that you should not say to someone who is suffering.
1. “Everything will be okay.” You don’t know that. God does not promise everything in this life will turn out
how we would like it. In fact, Jesus says in this life we will have trouble (John 16:33)! A woman told me of her
experience with a husband dying of cancer. All of her Christian friends told her “everything will be okay.” They
encouraged her to resist any thought of her husband dying. Her husband eventually died and she was totally
unprepared. Looking back, she wished that no one told her that. She wished her Christian friends would have
even asked her if she was prepared for his death. Not everything in this life will be okay, that is why we are
“waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
2. “I know what you are going through.” Unless you are going through the exact same suffering as the person
you hope to comfort, do not say that! In fact, it can be annoying to try and show the sufferer how the difficulties
you’ve been through are like theirs. Don’t make it about you. Just be there for them. The shortest verse of
the Bible is “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). That was how He responded to grieving sisters who had just lost their
brother. Rather than drawing a connection with his difficulties, he simply entered their pain. Weep with those
who weep, don’t compare your pain to theirs.
3. “It could be worse.” Maybe that is true in theory. It is not compassionate or helpful. We are instructed in
Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” If someone is mourning or
grieving, we are not entering their pain by saying “it could be worse.” At best we just don’t know what to say
(which is okay!) and at worst we are making light of their suffering. Besides, it also could be better.
Brothers and sisters, sometimes we don’t have just the right words. That is fine! We can provide comfort
through our prayers and presence. But let us not say the wrong things and make the suffering worse for our
friends. Our Lord and Savior suffered the brutal torment of the Cross. His presence and truth can comfort better
than our attempts to come up with the magic words.
Serving with you,