Three Wrong Ways To Respond To Suffering

Job’s comforters are busy these days. I’m sure you’ve seen them. Somewhere in your Facebook feed, on the “interwebs” or on TV, they are working overtime, delivering, with a smile, their consolation laced with condemnation to those in the midst of tragedy.

The story of Job tells us of a man who suffered unimaginable pain and loss. He went from great wealth to the depths of sickness, poverty and despair. Through all this, his three ‘friends’ insisted that his misfortunes were God’s punishment for his sins, something he had done wrong. But Job persisted in his belief that misfortune comes to both the godly and the wicked. He was convinced of the goodness, mystery and wonder of God, even in the midst of his pain.

The dictionary describes a Job’s comforter as someone whounwittingly or maliciously depresses or discourages someone while attempting to be consoling.”

You know, that person who seems to be saying the right thing, the spiritual thing, even the true thing, all while making you, or those they’re meant to comfort, feel worse.

Job Rebuked by His Friends – William Blake (1757–1827)


Instead of mending wounds, Job’s comforters poke their fingers deep into those wounds, inflicting pain instead of bringing healing.

We must NOT use times of tragedy to make a theological point.

We should never use someone else’s pain as a battering ram for our beliefs.

  • While it is certainly a fact that a house can be rebuilt, it is too soon to utter those words to someone standing in the rubble.
  • It is true that the sun will rise tomorrow, but for the one caught in a desperate midnight of the soul, that fact brings little comfort.
  • Perhaps time does heal all wounds, but spouting slogans to someone in pain, only serves to delay the healing.
  • Maybe those parents, grieving the loss of a child do have other children remaining but offering such trite comfort only reinforces the fact that we have grossly miscalculated the depth of their loss.
  • God can and does heal, but for the person trapped in a broken body or consumed with chronic pain, these words may sound more cruel than hopeful.

So how should we respond?

Number 1 – don’t ignore the suffering of others. When we are suffering and the world spins around us with no acknowledgment of our pain, the loneliness is soul-crushing. Let the suffering know they are seen.

Number 2 – don’t glorify pain. Yes, God can use our pain for a greater purpose – in our lives and the lives of others. But remember how Jesus responded when he heard his friend Lazarus had died? He simply wept. We should do the same when faced with pain, grief and loss.

Number 3 – don’t weaponize someone’s grief against them. For the love of God, don’t imagine you know whether or not they should be grieving, whether or not their level of grief is appropriate, whether or not they have unconfessed sin in their life. Unless you’re God, or their therapist, it’s not your place to figure that out.

Let’s save our theological debates for the classroom, the discussion group, the one-on-one conversations. They are not welcome, helpful or kind during a time of tragedy.

So, what can we do in response to suffering? It’s so simple, it’s almost ridiculous.


Weep with those who weep.

Lament with those who lament.

Scream with those who must scream.

Walk with those who are restless.

Eat with those who need food.

Pray with those who desire comfort.

Touch those who need to connect.


Be still with those who are silent.

Offer the simple, powerful gift of your presence and God’s presence in you, to bring healing and hope to a broken and wounded world.



Hey, I would love to have you join my private Facebook group “Pain-A Conversation.” Beginning September 25, 2017, I will be sharing a daily video conversation on the subject of pain, with my good friend Sanejo Leonard. We would love to have you join the conversation. Click here to join.

Thank you to Kelly M. Kapic for his insightful and compassionate book “Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering

Un-Mother’s Day – A Day For The Motherless, The Childless and The Ones With Regrets

Every year when Mother’s Day rolls around, my heart feels a twinge – of sorrow, regret, empathy – I don’t know how to describe it, but it lingers throughout the day. I think of the precious women whose longing for motherhood is never realized and imagine how the celebration must stab deep in their hearts.

I think of those whose mothers failed or abandoned them and imagine how the day reminds them of what they will never have.

I think of those whose mothers are gone, and imagine the sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter memories that are stirred.

I had a perfectly lovely Mother’s Day this year. It was simple, relaxed and spent in the company of my family. I felt loved and appreciated and enjoyed the gifts, the food and the words of love. My own mother is a woman of rare grace and I am honored to have such an example of a woman of faith and boundless love.

But I’m embarrassed to say, there have been Mother’s Days in my past where my expectations for what should happen, how I should be acknowledged, what gifts I should have received left me feeling more self-pity than gratefulness.

I’ve had Mother’s Days when depression and a deep sense of regret over all the things I didn’t do right and the ways I mothered horribly made it impossible for me to get out of bed.

There’s something about the contrived, commercialized, over-the-top THING that Mother’s Day, has become that makes me cringe and want to quit celebrating it all together. But I’m not sure that’s the answer. Because the celebration of mothers and all that they do is a sweet and necessary thing. I just wish we could tone it down a few notches!

If you love the hype and noise of Mother’s Day and think I’m crazy, that’s fine. But for the rest of you, reading my words and whispering a silent “amen” I want to honor you today, on this un-Mother’s Day, a Tuesday like any other.

To the motherless, the childless and the ones with regrets

To the grandmas and the mamas with empty nests

To the mothers who do it all wrong – forget the school recital, let the kids watch too much TV, feed them Froot Loops for dinner and run out of toilet paper

To the mamas with the wandering child, the stubborn son, the ungrateful daughter

To those who do it alone, without reprieve

To the dear one with the messy house, the empty bottles of wine, the unwashed dishes and piles of laundry

To the brave souls who mother other people’s children

To the women whose quest for perfection exhausts and depletes them

To the mamas who yell and scold too often; who praise and teach too little

To those who navigate motherhood without a healthy example before them

To the tireless and tired ones with children who will always need them and never become independent

To the women with angel babies

To the lost souls in a dark hole who can’t get out of bed, and who are racked with pain, with guilt, with fear.

I honor you today with a prayer for…





May your minds be at ease, your bodies find rest and your spirits be comforted by the One who IS peace.

Happy Un-Mother’s Day!