What words can I say to you when your life is hard and you are hurting? If we were face to face, I probably wouldn’t start with words at all. I would want you to talk when you are able. I want to know you, what you are going through, what it is like for you, and how you are doing. Simply being present and conveying that tears, heartache, and confusion are valid would probably be more helpful. Many wise Christians have commented that Job’s counselors did well until they opened their mouths (Job 2:11-13), and I certainly don’t think there is some magic word that will make everything better.
But when it comes time to say something, I might say this: Jesus is a most sympathetic friend, fellow sufferer, and Savior. He has walked a hard road. He has felt his own anguish and crushing pain (Isaiah 53). He understands. He is compassionate toward you. By the comfort of his presence and sympathy, he intends to draw you out and draw you to Himself.
Be honest. Don’t take any shortcuts. Let each day’s trouble be sufficient for that day.
I encourage you to go to him and speak to him. There is something about our ability to find words to express what we’re experiencing that makes a genuine difference. A wise Christian of many centuries ago said, “To open one’s heart to one’s friend—it doubles our joys and cuts our griefs in half.” I have found this to be true. Sharing a joy really does double the joy. And of course, sharing heartache never takes it all away — but there’s something about speaking to someone who truly cares about you that soothes your wounds. You are not alone.
The psalms, which are so full of heartache and so full of faith, often start with simply giving voice to the experience of suffering. As they do, it’s significant to notice that they don’t simply cry out in a scream of pain. They cry out to God who hears, who cares, who draws near, who helps. We can speak to our God. May you cry out to our God. He calls you his friend. He deeply cares for you. He is your Savior. Trust Him. He has walked down this road before you. He promises to walk with you in this.
And I might say one more thing. Suffering must be walked through one step at a time. Be honest. Don’t take any shortcuts. Let each day’s trouble be sufficient for that day. Seek your Father. If you seek him, you will find him.
David Powlison (MDiv, Westminster Theological Seminary) is a teacher, a counselor, and the executive director of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation. He is also the senior editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling and the author of Seeing with New Eyes, Good and Angry, and Speaking Truth in Love.