How to Support the Suffering

How to Support the Suffering February 19, 2018

Dealing with grief is hard. Even as a licensed social worker, I struggled with this. So much so that I took a course and immersed myself in the death and dying sub-culture. (Yes, that is a real thing.) While this was an uncomfortable experience, I grew so much by sitting in support groups of those with terminal cancer and learning from loved ones of dying children. Since that time, my ability to be supportive of those who are grieving has increased, and I have found various ways to demonstrate care and concern to the suffering.

Others have asked, “How do I support someone who is suffering?” Job 2:11-13 tells the story of Job’s three friends. They are the epitome of support. When they heard about Job’s troubles, they gathered together so that they could go sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw Job, they wept. The words of verse 13 is where I hang my hat: “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Can you imagine having that kind of friend? Can you imagine BEING that kind of friend? Sometimes we simply need to silently sit in sorrow with the suffering. Comforting. Weeping. Sitting in silence. This is how we can be supportive.

A word of caution – Job’s friends started to veer off course as the chapter progressed. But we can learn from that too. It is not our job to figure out why someone is suffering. It is not our job to try and solve someone’s problems. It is not our job to fix anyone or make them feel better. As a counselor, I certainly wish I could. But, really, that is far too much pressure. It is a position that doesn’t belong to me – or you – anyway. Let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief and focus on just being there when we’re needed. One day, we’ll need others to be there for us too.


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