Don’t feel compelled to offer answers, a solution, or Scripture. Let God be God and the Spirit speak. Pain and suffering, questions, and grief don’t insult God. He welcomes our transparency. Our questions are the momentum that moves us forward him in our faith walk. One of the things that frustrated me most in my work with teens over the years is that many Christian adults became angered by young people’s honest questions and regarded them as rebellion. If we don’t allow genuine expression of pain, struggle, and grief, we experience a shallow faith.
2, Practice the power of presence.
Your presence is enough–your hand on a shoulder. The power of eye contact. A hug. Sitting in the silence. Crying with someone. Experiencing shared grief honors their pain.
Let them express their story. Or rant. Or question. Or weep. Or be silent. But bring yourself to those moments–not so you can interject an opinion or theological viewpoint on suffering or loss. Simply listen and be WITH them in their sorrow. Honor their loss as if if were your own. Listen to the pain behind the words as much as the words themselves. God cares about the most intimate details of our grief, suffering, and sorrow. We should reflect his compassion and love in the way that we listen.
4. Honor who people are.
Does your friend value privacy? Are they a talker? A hugger? Do they love flowers–or would they rather have a card? What does support look like to them? Don’t be afraid to ask. They may need space, or they may need a few close friends to surround them. Just be sure to connect and remain in touch for the long haul. Express your love in ways that meet their specific needs. Have they lost a spouse? How is that loss reawakened every time they’re with couples? How can you offer compassion in those moments? Has their life been changed by chronic illness? What losses are they grieving, and how has illness forced them to make adjustments? How can you help meet them in those places?