It’s been a season of pain for people all around me.

Death, and cancer, and betrayal.

My reactions may be similar to yours:

  • I cannot imagine how I would deal with such tragedies if I were in their place.
  • I am heartbroken.  Overwhelmed with grief for them.
  • I don’t want to “go there”.  I hide in my busyness.  I don’t want to dive into the wreckage of my friends’ pain because I can’t fix it.
  • I feel desperately awkward because I don’t know what to say that could possibly help.
When something bad happens, people (and by people I mean me) often say the “wrong” thing.  We want to comfort, but our heads are filled with words we’ve been told we shouldn’t say, like “I know how you feel.”  
So our default mode is to say… nothing.
Last year I heard Cory Booker speak.  He’s the mayor of Newark and faces issues of overwhelming violence, poverty, and drugs daily.  He cares deeply and is striving for ways to bring health and healing to his city.

He shared that one day he walked home to his apartment in a low-income area of the city, extremely discouraged.  He was faced with complex problems and he didn’t know what to do.

Outside his apartment he ran into an old African-american woman who asked how he was doing.  The mayor poured out his frustration.  In response the woman said, “I have the answer to your problem!  I really do!”

He said, “Seriously?  What is it?”

Just do sumpin’” was her reply.

He went on to say that often we’re obsessed with finding the perfect words, or the perfect plan of action, when we should just do sumpin’.

I’ve been thinking about the truth of those words this week.

Years ago in my worst season, when people would ask “How are you doing?” I wanted to scream, “I want to die, how do you think I’m doing??!!”  But those who hung in and said anything, even that, said that they hadn’t given up on me.

It communicated the “with you-ness” of Jesus.

Just do sumpin’.

Pray and just say sumpin’.

It’s better than nothing.

Even if it’s awkward or imperfect, or you say “I heard what happened and I don’t know what to say.”

Or you make a meal and write a note that says “I know that nothing I do or say can make up for your loss, but I wanted you to know I care.”

Or send a simple text, “I can’t think of words, but I’m praying for you.”

And if you’re in pain, and someone says the “wrong” thing, just translate in your head and hear: “I’m here.  I care.”

What experience do you have either saying or receiving the “wrong” words?