There is a point within the greaving process where one earns the right to speak life into a situation. However, even with that permission, there are a few do’s and don’ts to the process you should know about. Now before we enter the list of do’s and don’ts let me also say that there are exceptions, here are a few of them; 1, You are a trained professional and they have come to you seeking help. 2, You are a trusted close friend whom they have confided in and they have specifically asked you for your thoughts. 3, They have asked you for your thoughts. 4, They have come to you asking you for advice. 5, They sought you out and asked you for your input. 6, Are you catching the theme? Rule number 1, do not cross the greaving line if you haven’t been asked or given an opening through conversation.
Now for our do’s when speaking life into a greaving heart. First, be absolutely certain they are ready to receive whatever you are about to say if you aren’t absolutely certain, hold your tongue. If all the lights are green proceed with caution, be gentle, remain sympathetic and empathetic. Listen more than you speak. It is ok to use some Scripture, here is a good one, Deuteronomy 31:8; “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Use real life, personal stories, they do not have to be yours just besure you have permission to share or change the names and places. Be optimistic but do not make promises or guarantees, with the exception of Jesus not abandoning them. Pray with and for them, at the moment.
Here are the don’ts. This list can really be a long one but i am going to try to keep it simple. Don’t overuse Scripture, i know you are going to want too and you are going to justify it in your mind…don’t do it. Some is good, but too much is a bad thing. Encourage them to read the Word, and pray about it but just don’t quote Scripture. If they wanted a preacher they’d go to the pastor, (you could encourage them to talk to a pastor). Don’t say, “I will pray for you.” (As written up in the do’s, pray for them on the spot, let them hear you!) DO NOT be like these guys, Jobs friends, because in the end, God said this to them, “I am angry with you [Eliphaz] and your two friends because you have not spoken the truth about me.” Job 42:7. Do not speak in cliche’s because most of them although said to be biblical are NOT!
When i have gone through difficult times i have needed empathy first, encouragement second and advice last. Besides, advice, given without request only sounds degrading. You may not use the words but i guarantee it sounds like this, “YOU SHOULD HAVE…” Capped with, “YOU IDIOT!” There may come a time for those words but i assure you, it won’t be early on and it better be coming from my best friend. Being there for someone going through tragedy is hard but it can be a blessing as well, as you show empathy, and encouragement, you will gain wisdom, and i can promise you that!
You are Loved,