Don’t Quote Scripture to a Suffering Friend


Editor’s note: the following story is adapted from Karen’s book, The Compassionate Congregation.

Judy shares the following story:

My sister, who had been one of my best friends, and I had a falling out. I was devastated. Despite my efforts to mend the situation she would not speak to me.

I shared my heartache with a friend.  I briefly spoke of the root of the problem, of my hurt.  I expected support and comfort; but I did not anticipate the counsel I received.  “Well, you know what the Bible says,” my friend snapped, “Forgive 70 times 7”.  And then she sanctimoniously hurled, “And turn the other cheek”.

I was offended; I was furious!  I didn’t need her sermon.  What I needed was her care.  A simple “I’m sorry, it really must hurt!” would have lightened my burdened heart.  Instead I felt mistreated.  She undoubtedly thought she was God’s mouthpiece on that gray day.  I have filed her remark in my mental folder entitled “What not to say when you friend is hurting”.

As Judy’s story shows us, when friends are hurting, they aren’t always ready to reflect deeply on the “meaning” of their situation. Sometimes they just want to hear the caring words of a trusted friend.

What might Judy’s friend have done to shore a more caring approach? Here are a few tips on ways you can be a caring friend when someone is hurting:

  • Seek to understand your friend’s feelings.
  • Say, “It must hurt.”
  • Offer to pray for peace and reconciliation.
  • Give a hug.
  • Refrain from sharing your own stories of broken relationships.  Focus all your attention on the hurting friend.

Although Scripture can bring immense comfort and perspective during troubling times, it’s important to determine a friend’s readiness to hear the message.  You might need to avoid quoting Scripture until your friend is feeling more introspective. Instead, offer brief words of comfort or a gesture of kindness.

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