What’s the best way to discourage a suffering friend?
I can tell you what I’ve done.
I’ve told suffering friends about how other people are going through more painful trials. I’ve given examples of how brave, godly and optimistic these other people are. I’ve freely doled out advice, even mini-sermons, about how their horrible situations will turn out for the best.
I wasn’t trying to be discouraging. I was trying to help. Surprisingly, my advice didn’t help at all. My words just added to their pain.
I know, because I’ve been on the receiving end of that kind of “help” as well.
That “help” has cut deeply. It has left me feeling judged and misunderstood in the midst of my struggle. It has made my burden heavier. It has made me feel lonely and isolated, unsure of whom to trust.
So when my friend Jane is told her circumstances aren’t that bad and she needs to trust God more, I feel bad for her. She has been dealing with a difficult situation for years, and it is getting worse. When she says she’s being compared to others, I understand her pain. I’ve been there before. But when she tells me that I am the person she’s being compared to, I am mortified.
I feel like I’ve just added to her burden. That’s a horrible thing for a friend to do. Jane feels like she’s surrounded by Job’s comforters, who went on and on, speaking about things they did not know or understand.