5 Ways to Help Those Suffering Crises

August 9, 2016

“The truth is, God’s people ought to be able to be the greatest agents of His love to broken people, but sometimes we are the worst simply because we don’t know what to say,” said Jack Munday, the international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.

So what do you say to a friend, family member, or even stranger who is suffering from a crisis? Many people don’t realize that it is just as important to know what not to say, because saying the wrong thing at the wrong time could sever the possibility for ministry and cause more pain.

  1. Pray For Wisdom.
    Before coming along side someone during the early stages after an incident, you should always pray. Ask the Lord for wisdom and to give you sensitivity. Ask Him to share His compassion with you, so that you can appropriately help others.
  1. Know Your Initial Statement.
    Many people do not know what to say when someone goes through intense emotional suffering. Start the conversation by saying, “How are you holding up?” This question recognizes the pain and suffering and allows that person to respond and tell their story. Never ask, “How are you doing?” It is cliché. People will recognize the phrase as a “hi” rather than an invitation to be vulnerable and honest.
  1. Say: “I’m Sorry.”
    Victims to crises need to hear that you are sorry and that you will not leave their side. They do not need your opinions or words of advice. Say: “I’m so sorry. I cannot imagine how you are feeling right now. I am here for you.” It is important to know when to be quiet and let the other person talk. Read more about “what to say” and “what not to say” in our next blog post.
  1. Be Conscious of Sounding Too Religious
    Christians can do more damage than non-Christians because we have Bible verses in our back pockets that we pull out when we do not know what else to say. For example, Romans 8:28 says that “all things work together for good for those who love God.” This is true, but it is not an appropriate, and often hurtful, verse to say to someone who is grieving.Be careful when it comes to prayer. Some will welcome it, but others will get angry if you bring it up. During distress and tragedy, people often get upset at God. It is hard for us to respond because we cannot explain God’s intentions, but we can offer hope. If they ask the common question, “How could a loving God allow something like this to happen?” respond by saying, “I really wish I had an answer for you that could take away your pain, but I don’t. I do know, though that you are right about one thing: God is a loving God. He wants to come along side you and comfort you.”
  2. Just Listen.
    Though it can be difficult, limit your own opinions and advice. Someone grieving may be angry at something you are very fond of; firefighters, policemen or government officials. Even if you believe their words are untrue, that is not the time to disagree. Let them grieve and talk through those feelings out loud.

This advice is an overview of the content from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team’s Sharing Hope in Crisis Seminars that they hold throughout the country and the training courses they offer online.  This August 20, The Park Church in Charlotte, N.C. will host a seminar. For more information, visit here.

To read more about the history of Billy Graham sharing hope in times of crises and to see memorabilia from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, visit the Billy Graham Library from now to Oct. 31 to see their new “Compassion in Crisis” display. The display highlights how the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has impacted those affected by some of the most significant crises throughout the last several decades.

Check back on August 16 as we take a closer look at “what to say” and “what not to say” to those suffering crises.


What Do You Think?