No matter how earnestly you try to address someone else’s problems, your best advice will seem shallow and one-dimensional until you have actually experienced suffering for yourself. Dr. J. Vernon McGee learned this lesson as he battled lung cancer:

I found this true the first time I went to the hospital for cancer surgery. I turned my face to the wall, like old Hezekiah did, and said, “Lord, I’ve been in this hospital many times. I’ve patted the hands of folk and had prayer with them, and told them, ‘Oh, you trust the Lord; He will see you through.’ Lord, I have told them that, but this is the first time I’ve been in here. Now I want to know whether it is true or not. I want You to make it real to me. If You are my Father, I want to know it.” And, my friend, He made it real. At a time like that the Spirit of God cries out, “Abba, Father” — it just wells up within you. How sweet it is to trust Him, turn yourself over to Him.

It’s easy to throw out spiritual clichés when we are not the ones on the operating table: “All things will work out for the good.” “God is in control.” “Trust God, and everything will be alright.” “God will make a way for you.” But when we are struggling through a trial, we need more than mere words to comfort us. We need assurance that the pet phrases we so often used are true. In essence, we need the Lord. Only His presence in our storms can make the truth real to us.

So what is the best way to relate to hurting people? You can pray for the person going through a trial. Make yourself available to help, or even just to listen. You don’t have to say anything spiritual — or anything at all. Put yourself in the other person’s position, and respond in such a way that they experience the comforting reality of God’s presence through you. This will speak louder than words.

Devotional by Pastor Jim Scudder, Jr.