For many who as a matter of faith consider SSA to be a sin struggle, the loneliest words they can hear are, “I do not understand what you are feeling” or “I do not know what to say” or “I wish I could help but I just do not know what to do.” The people who respond this way mean well – they are attempting to be authentic, honest and compassionate. Further, many consider it quite insensitive to claim to understand someone’s pain when you really have not faced the circumstances they are facing. In light of this, is there a better response? I think there is.
When I encounter someone who considers SSA to be a sin struggle, I find it is always helpful to ask questions rather than make any declarative statements. If they are hurting, it is likely that they are isolated and alone in their struggle. What does someone like that need? They need to know someone is “here” – listening; and willing to try to understand. It never hurts to start off by saying, “I am so sorry you are feeling this way. What does this pain feel like inside?” By drawing such a person into a further sharing of their emotions, they will feel cared for – and maybe deeply comforted.
While it would be dishonest to say you understand exactly what they are feeling, surely you also have had your share of personal pain. Do not lie and make something up, but also do not overlook the opportunity to relate to another’s suffering by being vulnerable about your own suffering. The primary goal is to be a listener, not turn the attention from their pain to yours. Yet it can be very comforting for an SSA struggler to know that you too also suffer – or experience pain around unmet needs.
Neither of these suggestions will solve the pain of another person, but they can take the bite out of isolation and aloneness. They can convey a healthy sense of community: the kind of fellowship and friendship that says, “I am here for you.” And they offer the promise: “I will walk with you through this.”
Be a listener. Hear what others are actually saying. Draw them into additional sharing. This will prove that you care. Then, share something about your own struggles. This will prove that they are not alone. Who knows, you may just be deeply comforted as well.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: What are the loneliest words to you? How have you been comforted by others walking with you in the midst of your suffering? To add your feedback, simply use the comment form below. You may elect to comment as “Anonymous.” Share this article on Facebook, Twitter, Buzz or by email.