Last Sunday at our new church, RJ spoke about suffering from II Corinthians 4, and verses 8-10 stuck out to me:

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”

We talked about our propensity to want to “fix” people’s suffering/problems and offer words of advice instead of love and empathy, and I was reminded of a little grace in practice I found in one of my nursing textbooks. The chapter was on the patient interview and discussed some things a nurse should try not to do while talking to patients. One of the points was “Giving Unwanted Advice” and said that even if a patient asks “If you were me, what would you do?” we shouldn’t answer “If I were you, I’d…” because we are, in fact, not them. And in answering what we would do, we are disabling the patient to understand and come to terms with their condition and make decisions about their lives.

Is that what we are doing when we try to help someone through suffering by offering advice? “Well, how has your prayer life been?” “Have you been reading the Bible?” “You should do x, y, and z…” The truth is, we are hard pressed on every side, and to deny it or offer solutions not only makes people feel like it’s their fault (which sometimes it might be) but, I think, it also hinders those who are suffering from experiencing the grace and “life of Jesus” being revealed in them.