Have you ever gone through a tragedy and have a Christian brother or sister visit you? Nine out of ten of them would most likely have just one character to use to encourage you, and that character is ‘Job’ in the Bible. Most of them also presume that the only counsel to give any woman going through trouble in her marriage is “……a good woman builds her home,” Proverbs 14:1. Most times, many Christians have this ‘one character’ or ‘one verse solves-all-issues’ mentality approach to every matter that they fail to identify with the person in pain or even investigate the root cause(s) of the issue before they give their counsel.

I know of a man who lost his wife many years ago. A group of people from the church I was attending then, went to pay a condolence visit to this man and I was part of this group. After the man welcomed us into his home and we sat down, the leader of the group broke the silent moment that followed by trying to encourage the man with the story of Job from the Bible. We were all shocked at the man’s reaction when he angrily interrupted our leader before he had said much. The widower asked with great rage and pain, “Am I Job? Why is it that everyone who comes here to console me keeps referring to Job?” Lost for more creative things to say to this widower, most of the people in the group became silent until we left. This experience, along with other personal ones I have had with Christians has left me pondering on the question, “Why can’t church folks be more creative when trying to offer help to someone in distress? Why can’t we (yes I’m also a Christian!) try to be empathetic towards someone in pain rather than always ready to dish out solutions when we hardly even know the problem?” A professional in any field will always make investigations before attempting to solve the problem. That is why a medical doctor will run tests before prescriptions, a solicitor will thoroughly investigate a case before attempting to represent his client, and a counsellor will ask many questions while listening attentively before attempting to offer any form of assistance.

I quite agree that as Christians we may not be professional counsellors, but shouldn’t the love of Christ within us make us more understanding of people going through pain? For most people going through challenges, the last thing they want to hear is your sermon on ‘Job’ or ‘a good woman builds her home’. They want someone who feels their pain and yet is not lost in their hopeless! They want someone to reassure them that things are going to be alright and that there is light at the other end of the tunnel. They just need encouragement and inspiration! Empathy is simply imagining yourself in someone else’s situation and trying to feel their pain. If we can be more empathetic, we are likely to be less judgemental and also less prone to give a ‘quick-fix’ advice.

If you were in a situation of tragedy or intense pain, what kind of reaction would you want from people around you? Your comments are most welcome.

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