Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body – Proverbs 16:24

As one whose job requires navigating the difficulties of life with others, including death, I’ve heard some of the most hurtful things said to the grieving with good intentions.

Things like “everything happens for a reason!”

“God just needed another angel in heaven.”

“God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.”

“This too shall pass.”

“It’s all part of God’s plan.”

Having heard phrases like these said to others who are hurting in my ministry and even having them said to me when I’ve been grieving, I’ve learned that these phrases are more for the people saying them than the people they are saying them too.

I get it, struggle, crisis, and especially death are really difficult things to handle, even when they happen to people you’re just acquainted with. But when we say phrases like this, we are helping ourselves get over our own discomfort rather than entering into the pain and suffering of the person we are saying them to.

Honestly, when you’re in the midst of the worst pain, hearing phrases like “everything happens for the reason” just comes across as “just get over it.”

One of the shortest verses in the Bible illustrates well how we Christians are called to respond to the grieving.

When Jesus heard that Lazarus had died and encountered his grieving friends and family, he didn’t tell them to not worry about it or that “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” No, what did he do? “Jesus wept. (John 11:35)

Verse 33 tells us that he wept because his spirit was deeply distraught and moved with compassion by the grief he saw from others.

Jesus entered into their grief. Listened to them. Mourned with them. Allowed his heart to be broken over what broke their hearts.

This is the example we who claim to follow Jesus are to embrace. When we witness pain and grief from those around us, our task isn’t to get them over the pain or to make the situation less uncomfortable for ourselves. It is to “mourn with those who mourn.” -Romans 12:15

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” -Jesus

May we be a blessing in the midst of the mourning and despair of others, rather than add to their pain.

(By Rev. Richard Cremer)

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