How Can We Help in Time of Loss?

A woman has a miscarriage. A middle-aged man is laid off at work. A family’s house burns. Parents lose a teenage son to suicide. A child is diagnosed with cancer. A surviving spouse must now go on without the other.

Responding to loss

A common response to the suffering of people we know is to do nothing—not because we don’t care, but because we just don’t know what to say or do.

When Job’s friends came after he suffered the triple loss of his children, wealth, and health, they may have meant well but succeeded only in adding to his grief by their ill-chosen words. “Sorry comforters” is what Job called them (Job 16:2).

How can we effectively show concern—especially when we haven’t experienced what others are suffering?

For starters, we can educate ourselves on what is and what is not helpful to say to someone in distress. Here’s an example of such a resource:

How best to help

In marked contrast to Job’s so-called friends, Jonathan was a great encouragement to David during a dark time in his life. Jonathan found his friend and wept with him (1 Samuel 20:31-42; 23:15-16).

Many years later David was again on the run. Barzillai along with others brought bedding and abundant food supplies for David and those with him—“for they said, ‘The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness’” (2 Samuel 17:27-29).

When Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he so appreciated the loyal support of his friend Onesiphorus, who “often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me” (2 Timothy 1:16-17).

Many of us know what it’s like to be on the receiving end when friends show up with a hug, a kind word, a listening ear, a prayer, a gift of food—and who even run errands for us and help with household chores.

Knowing the comfort others have been to us in our own time of need, how then can we pass along the kindness the next time we learn of a loss?

With so many hurting people around us, we shouldn’t lack for an opportunity!


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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“I am with you”

Comforting assurance

By using a Bible computer program you can type in the words, “I am with you,” and in just moments the screen displays every passage where this phrase is found. If you count all references to “I am with you” plus “I will be with you,” you will discover more than 20 occurrences altogether.

A study of these in context is impressive—and reassuring. Over and over God pledges His presence and His help to His people. Among those who received this assurance (and who really needed the encouragement) were Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Jeremiah, and Paul (Genesis 26:3, 24; 28:15; 31:3; Exodus 3:12; Deuteronomy 31:23; Joshua 1:5; 3:7; Judges 6:16; Jeremiah 1:8, 19; 15:20; Acts 18:9-10). God also encouraged Israel with this promise through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Haggai (Isaiah 41:10;  43:1-2, 5; Jeremiah 30:10-11; 42:11; 46:28; Haggai 1:13; 2:4).

In time of crisis

God promised to be with them in view of their facing tremendous difficulties and challenges. The normal human reaction to such hurdles would be discouragement and fear. In fact in several of these passages God says, “Do not fear,” along with the promise, “I am with you.” In other words, Since I am with you, therefore you need not fear. And so we can say with David, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me . . .” (Psalm 23:4).

The promise of God’s presence and help is conditional on our cooperating with His will (1 Kings 11:38; 14:7-11). Let’s so live that God can always be with us.

God’s presence may be invisible, but it is real. His promise “I am with you” may be ancient, but it isn’t dated. We need to hear those words today as much as those in earlier times. We too face great trials as we obey Christ. But as Jesus said in giving us the Great Commission, “. . . I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

To the end of the age.


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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