Last week, I learned of several in our community who died from COVID-related complications. This week, I know those who are struggling with multiple health conditions or new diagnoses. I look around me at church and count multiple people who lost a spouse or other family members in the past year. Honestly, as we near the end of a second hard year, even if we are on the periphery, it’s depressing.
So many around us are dealing with one challenge or loss on top of the next. Perhaps that someone is you. How do we respond to those dealing with ongoing difficulty? What helps and what doesn’t? How do we maintain or regain perspective and encourage others despite sorrow and hardship?
How many times have you intended to, but delayed, contacting those who have lost a loved one or are dealing with great difficulty? Often, we don’t reach out because we don’t know exactly what to say. Other times, we selfishly don’t want to be pulled into someone else’s grief or need.
Your response can be simple: a text message, phone call, card, or email. And you don’t have to say much—I’m thinking of you, I’m sorry you’re going through a challenging time, I care. I’ve found the longer I delay the less likely I am to follow through. Heed the internal prompting to make contact. Your concern may be the highlight of someone’s day.
Are you a good listener? Most of us aren’t. We spend time thinking of what we will say next instead of giving full attention to the one who is speaking. Listening well is an attribute that must be cultivated. Begin today to listen more and talk less.
Tread Softly with Advice
Many times, we approach someone else’s hardship with the idea of fixing them or their situation. However, are we really qualified to do so? Many situations are intertwined, deep, and complicated. Unless you have a counseling degree, your advice may do more harm than good. Certainly, you don’t want to make the person feel worse after talking to you.
Refer to the previous point—listen, speak words of encouragement, but tread softly with copious advice.
Often, I find myself trying to comfort by recounting a similar scenario. Although my intent is to make connection, I wonder if it doesn’t minimize the other person’s situation instead. Perhaps telling your own story makes the other person feel as if you think you’ve dealt with worse. I’m working on learning to be careful how, and with whom, I share a similar situation.
Grief is a process, so you may be most helpful in times of sorrow weeks or months later. Don’t place a time frame on the grief of others, or assume they are handling prolonged challenges well. Continue to let them know of your prayers and concern, but that shouldn’t be your only topic of contact. Every conversation doesn’t have to be heavy or about their hardship. Encourage and support as opportunities arise.
How do we avoid being dragged down by illness, sorrow, and sadness around us? During these days, maintaining perspective and forward motion is challenging. Keep praying. Recognize blessings. Employ moments of humor—corny dad jokes always lighten the atmosphere at our family gatherings. Enjoy moments of peace and tranquility. Relish simple pleasures. Combat the heaviness of current situations and potential future difficulties by focusing on God’s promise to work on our behalf and provide for the future.
Although they may feel never-ending, current circumstances will moderate and our lives will move forward. The current oppressive atmosphere will diminish, followed by a season of renewal and hope.
“God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:3a-4 NLT).
The current oppressive atmosphere will diminish, followed by a season of renewal and hope.
Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving through, and beyond, difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including: Inspiration.org, Arisedaily.com, CBN.com, Healthgrades.com, Care.com, Focus on the Family, NextAvenue.org, CountryLiving.com, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books), When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).
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