Supporting in the Midst of Suffering
The topic of sorrow and suffering is one that has rocked the human heart and mind since the beginning of time. For believers and non-believers alike, we all struggle to understand suffering as well as God’s goodness in the midst of it all. Explaining this isn’t a one and done type deal—though many a saints and scholars much wiser than I have written on the topic— I think it’s more of a gradual unfolding and deepening in the search for truth, beauty, and goodness.
Yet I am quite certain that more than someone needs your words they need your presence. In the midst of a hard time or deep sorrow, we need attunement and attention more than we need platitudes and explanations.
How do we express presence practically?
1️⃣ Pray in Advance. Present that friend, loved one, person, in God’s hands. Ask the Father to show you His particular love for that person. Contemplate the unique ways that person reveals the goodness of God. Intercede for that person and ask God to bring blessing where there is curse and the richness of His presence where there is poverty.
2️⃣Time. Clear your schedule. Be intentional about calling and going to visit. It doesn’t have to be an hour or hours. Just be with that person for as long as you can, and while you are with them give them your undivided attention. No phones people!
3️⃣ Nonverbal Communication. Eye contact, a pat on the back, a look of concern, nodding your head, a relaxed pose. Give that person the space to speak and breathe. Use your body to communicate you are listen, you understand, and you are not leaving in the midst of the darkness they are facing. Your regulated and relaxed body can provide stability to someone who is disregulated and in anguish.
4️⃣ Listening & Reflecting. Don’t assume you know or understand. Let yourself be curious. Ask questions like “You said ____, could you tell me more about that?” Or “I heard you say this_____. What did that feel like?” Facilitate outward processing by inviting the person to give context, clarify where they have misspoken, and greater explore feelings of frustration.
5️⃣Pray in the Moment. How often do we say "I'll pray for you" and then forget to actually do it? It's normal and completely understandable, yet the most important thing we can do to love God, ourselves, and others. To avoid the possibility of this happening, suggest a prayer in the moment. You might get turned down. That's okay, it's worth the try anyways. You don't need to pray a litany or inner healing prayer. A simple prayer of blessing goes a long way for someone who is in struggling.
I am not expert, just speaking from my own wounded heart. Got any better ideas! DM💌 or comment below👇