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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Need Help?

I was in my thirties before I learned that men are reluctant to ask directions when driving. That was news to me! When I was growing up, my dad would often stop and ask. So when I got out on my own, I thought nothing of doing the same.

When GPS and roadmaps aren’t quite enough, it strikes me as silly to be in a strange place and forge ahead, hoping to figure out the right road when a simple question could save a lot of time and gasoline.

Pride? A sense of self-sufficiency? Is that it? Is that why macho men don’t want to admit they’re lost?

Choosing our destination

Life is a journey with a destination. We’re all headed somewhere. Some don’t have a clue where they’re headed or what the alternatives are. That’s why we have the Bible.

The Bible tells us: 1) There are two roads. 2) One road leads to life, the other to destruction. 3) We must choose (Matthew 7:13-14).

The road to destruction requires no particular effort to reach that destination. We can go to hell by default, by doing absolutely nothing.

By choosing life

If we choose the road to life, we need to understand: a) how to get on the only road that actually leads there, and b) how to stay on that road.

In other words, we need lots of help to make it. We need the grace of God to forgive and sustain us, we need the Holy Spirit to strengthen us, the Scriptures to teach us, the fellowship of believers to encourage us, and the daily intercession of our Mediator at the Father’s right hand.

Proud people don’t like to admit they need help. But is there anyone who doesn’t? There’s no such thing as a truly self-made man, especially when it comes to our salvation.

No wonder the Scriptures repeatedly urge us to humble ourselves, to seek God, and to admit our inadequacies (Luke 18:9-14).

Reluctance to seek the help we so desperately need and which is so readily available for the asking is far worse than silly—it is eternally fatal to our souls.

So go ahead, ask!

man driving-tagged

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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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When Trouble Comes

Multiple sorrows

A church bulletin made mention of a member who lost her father and uncle, and her mother broke a hip—and all on the same day!

“When sorrows come, they come not single spies,/But in battalions” (Shakespeare, Hamlet).

Though troubles don’t often pile up like this, it certainly can happen.

Abundant help

The bulletin that reported this member’s triple losses stated, “Ann has requested our prayers on their behalf.”

More than once I’ve heard a Christian say during a time of sorrow, “I don’t know what people do who don’t have the church.”

Of all people, Christians are the best equipped for handling adversity. They have the Lord to lean on, His word to comfort, and fellow believers to provide support.

That’s why Ann knew where to turn in time of loss.


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Helps Along the Way

The help he needed

Could he have ever made it into the city on his own?

Temporarily blinded by his vision of the glorified Christ, Saul was led by the hand into the city by those traveling with him (Acts 22:11).

Three days later he was told, “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (22:16).

In obeying he depended on the one who immersed him, but primarily on the Lord who cleansed him.

Could he have ever found salvation on his own? Can we?

More than once, friends saved his life. Others assisted in countless ways. Above all, the Lord sustained and protected him along the way.

The help we need

Today believers often draw strength from one another, but especially the Lord.

Thank God for all the helps along the way!


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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“I don’t need your help!”

I can!

Before learning to swim, I was struggling in water over my head. There was a boy on the edge of the pool, but I did not want him to save me.

Managing to get to where I could touch bottom, I didn’t need saving after all!

Reminds me of the little girl who’d say, “Self do it!” Children must learn to stand on their own feet, and yet . . . .

I can’t!

Wisdom comes in realizing there are times when we are in way over our heads and self can’t do it.

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 6:6).
















“God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13).

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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When the Pressure’s On

A cry for help!

In a large department store a harried employee hurried past me saying, “Lord, help me through the day!” Apparently she was having “one of those days.” Don’t we all?

What her relationship with God was I do not know. But her words are right on target. She knew where to turn. Tomorrow is another day. “Help me today!”

The best way to handle stress


What a stress-reducer prayer is! (Philippians 4:6-7). At any time Christians can “draw near to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

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