When mentoring those who are suffering we rarely know what to do or say.  The truth is there really isn’t much to say or do to make an immediate difference.  That’s best left to God.  What we can do, however, is keep from making things worse.  Here are a few things not to do in those circumstances:

First, avoid trite answers to a person’s suffering.  In an effort to help, we often resort to Christian cliché.  We say things like, “God must have special plans for you to allow something like this” or “God will use this in your life to help others.”  Those well-meaning clichés contain an element of truth, and we might even have Scriptures to support them.  But they don’t resonate in the midst of suffering, and they often cause more harm than good.  Better to keep silent than to resort to clichés.

On the other hand, we should also not shy away from the difficult questions.  During a season of suffering a person will ask “Why me?” and “Where is God in this?” and “How can God allow this?”  Those are tough questions, but important questions.  You won’t want to offer quick or trite answers, but you’ll still want to leave room for the questions themselves and to not invalidate them.  It is okay to allow these questions to linger… unanswered but important.

The main thing you can do is to come alongside the suffering person and feel with them.  Feel their sorrow.  Feel their disappointment.  Feel their loss.  Feel their hurt.  Pray for them if not with them.  By feeling with them, you are putting flesh to the Body of Christ.  “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)