I am enjoying reading Good Shepherds More Guidance for the Gentle Art of Pastoring which includes helpful essays on matters like “Paul, The Elders, and Spiritual Formation,” “Doctrinal Disagreement: Must It Be War?,” and “When Worlds Collide: Clashing Spiritual Styles in Church.”
One essay that caught my attention was written by Virgil Fry who is a hospital chaplain who spends much of his time at M. D. Anderson. Perhaps this caught my attention because sometimes we just don’t know what to say to someone who is in pain or grieving. His essay, entitled “Shepherding the Seriously Ill and Grievers,” included the following suggestions for alternative responses to support someone in crisis:
Instead of: It’s probably not as bad as it seems.
Try: What helps you get through tough times?
Instead of: Just pray harder.
Try: Are there spiritual issues I can help you with?
Instead of: You shouldn’t dwell on the negative.
Try: It’s hard to find anything good at times like this, isn’t it?
Instead of: I don’t understand why you are so upset.
Try: Help me understand what you are going through.
Instead of: The more you talk about it the worse you’ll feel.
Try: Let me be your sounding board for a while.
Instead of: Don’t you know it could always be worse?
Try: It probably seems very overwhelming right now to you.
Instead of: You’ve got to keep smiling and look for the positive.
Try: I’m impressed that you are able to keep going.
Instead of: Where’s your faith?
Try: Sometimes our faith journey takes mysterious routes, doesn’t it?
Instead of: Everything happens for a good purpose.
Try: Right now it’s probably hard to see any good coming out of this.
Instead of: Just count your blessings.
Try: In spite of everything, you seem to have much going for you.
Instead of: You need to stay busy with other things.
Try: May I help you talk through your options?
Instead of: Here’s a professional counselor you should call.
Try: Would you consider seeking additional help?
Instead of: I know lots of people who’ve dealt with that.
try: Sometimes it helps to find some others who have survived the same thing.
Instead of: You know we’re not supposed to ask why.
Try: Isn’t it amazing how many people of faith also struggled with why?
I hope these suggestions will be helpful to you, as they were to me. May God give us the patience to be quiet when we can help best by listening, words to say when we can help best by talking, and the wisdom to know when to be quiet and when to talk.