Recently I was listening to a woman who went through a difficult journey with cancer. She shared what was helpful from others and what wasn’t helpful. She said that it as hard for her when people said, “I understand what you’re going through,” because they couldn’t begin to understand without first listening. She said,
The things that weren’t helpful were when those people were almost compulsive in their need to either deny my pain or circumstances, kind of candy coat it or pretend it wasn’t real, or when people tried to fix it. People wanted to give me lists of the diets I needed to eat, the Scriptures I needed to read, or whatever. Those things weren’t helpful. Those things that were helpful were when those people could listen with their hearts and actually enter into my pain. But it requires some sacrifice on the listener’s part to be willing to just kind of sit in the mess with the other person for a time without feeling the need to fix it.
That is good to realize. Proverbs 18:13 says, “The one who gives an answer before he listens—that is his folly and his shame.” Before jumping right in to “help” someone who is suffering, take time to listen, ask questions, allow the person to share his heart.
So next time you encounter someone in pain, remember Romans 12:15 — “Weep with those who weep.” That should be our first response—not to give advice or try to fix the pain. Show the love of Christ through your compassion. The other day I was talking with a member of our church who has stage four cancer. I said to him, “I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I want to walk through this with you and seek the Lord’s grace together.”
And after you have listened, say a simple prayer for your brother or sister. Your listening and your concern will be a great encouragement. May the Lord give us grace to follow His example, to be kind and tender-hearted to one another (Ephesians 4:32).