Every person will deal with a loss at some point in his or her life. It is inevitable. At the very least we will deal with the loss of a loved one to death, whether it is the unexpected death of someone we deem too young to die or the loss of a loved one who lived a long and fruitful life. But other losses cause us to experience pain as well, like a lost job, a divorce, a breakup, a missed opportunity, or even losing a house or apartment.
Whenever things like this happen people have questions. Where was God during this? Why did he not stop it? If God is truly a loving God, then how could he allow this to happen? During times of loss and mourning Christians have a responsibility to minister to hurting people in the church and the community. Here are a few ways you can help others during times of grief.
Sometimes it is hard to know what to say. Often, we feel awkward and don’t do or say anything. The Bible explicitly tells us that we should, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”(Galatians 6:2) What is the law of Christ? It is the commandment to love each other. One of the ways you express love for people is to be there for them.That is what sharing a burden means. Words are important but not as essential as being present. Even if you don’t know what else to say, that is enough.
Pray with Them
Psalm 62:8 says, “Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.”God not only answers prayer in times of trouble, he expects us to pray during tough times. God is a refuge. A refuge is a safe place, a harbor, or a retreat. You may not understand the reason for the loss but praying aligns your life under God’s protection and will. This produces a sense of peace and grows your faith.
Patiently Answer Their Questions
Do not get frustrated with people when their faith seems weak during a tragedy. Help them look back to God. Don’t use Christian clichés that seem insensitive and uncaring. I do believe all things work together for good for those who love God, but I think you need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit in your language. Just because a person has questions does not mean that he or she doesn’t love God. Questions about why God allows bad things to happen are legitimate. There are answers from the Bible to these questions. Respond sensitively to these questions and don’t assume he or she lacks faith.
One thing that may help is to remember that God created mankind with a free will. God is responsible for the fact of free will and we are responsible for the acts of free will. God always has a purpose. Just because we can’t see the purpose does not mean that there isn’t one. The Psalmist wrote about people who trust God during difficult times when he said, “He is not afraid of receiving bad news; his faith is strong, and he trusts in the Lord.”Psalm 112:7
Acknowledge that You Don’t Have All the Answers
I recently read a quote from a Christian leader that said, “People would rather follow a leader who is always real rather than one who is always right.”Don’t be the pompous know-it-all. That frustrates rather than helps. Learn to let people know that you have questions too but that you trust God because of his goodness. The prophet Nahum wrote, “The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.”Nahum 1:7
Point them to the Cross
The cross of Jesus Christ is the ultimate answer to human tragedy. The crucifixion of Christ was the most outrageous act of evil in world history. Humans murdered God the Son. Yet, at the same time it was the only possible solution for sin and the greatest act of love the world has ever known. It enables us to be forgiven, declared righteous, and redeemed back to God. It will ultimately lead to the redemption of all of creation back to God’s original purpose. Christ’s death and resurrection defeated sin, death, and hell. One day, death, evil, sorrow, pain, and tears will be no more. But until that day we have a Savior that empowers us and embraces us during our suffering. That is possible only because God the Son lived a fully human, sinless life, died on a cross as our sacrifice, rose from the grave, and is coming again. When you point people to the cross, you remind them that Jesus suffered evil actions against himself and that he understands what we are going through.
2 Corinthians 1:8-10 “We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.”
No matter what loss we experience, our hope is found in Jesus Christ. Reminding others of his love for us is the best way to help people recover and find joy in the midst of difficulty. You can offer hope to the hurting.