How Not to Help a Sufferer

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How Not to Help a Sufferer

By Gavin Ortlund

Of all the Bible’s many colorful characters, none is quite so exasperating as Job’s friends. Herod might chop off your head, and Judas might stab you in the back, but Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar will hurt you with Bible verses.

Job’s actual losses take two brief chapters to recount (Job 1–2), but the tortuous dialogue that follows drones on for 35 chapters (Job 3–37). I wonder which agonized Job more: his initial suffering or the extended indictment that followed?

The problem with Job’s comforters isn’t that they’re heretics. Much of what they say is true. The problem is the moralistic worldview that governs their engagement with Job, and compels them to reason backward from suffering to sin.

It’s easy to criticize Job’s friends, but let’s be honest: We can all be like them. In fact, a good litmus test of our heart’s alignment with the gospel—whether functionally we believe in a world of grace or a world of karma—is how we respond when a Job comes across our path. Suffering pulls out our real theology like a magnet.

Here are four things in particular to avoid when with a sufferer. Think of them as four ways we, like Job’s friends, can pour burning coals on the heads of those already sitting in ashes.

1. Appeal too quickly to God’s sovereignty.

The Bible teaches that “all things work together for good” for those in Christ (Rom. 8:28) and that God can use evil for good (Gen. 50:20). However, just because this is biblical doesn’t mean it’s always tactful or helpful to say.

“God meant it for good” is said by Joseph years after his suffering, not to Joseph during his suffering. Imagine Joseph’s angst and frustration had his brothers gathered around the well to shout down in encouragement: “Don’t worry, Joseph; God means this for good!”

Similarly, soon after Paul teaches that “all things work together for good,” he admonishes us to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). Before quoting the former, let’s be sure we’re willing to practice the latter.

2. Launch into a story of how God used your suffering.

It’s human nature to relate others’ experiences to our own. We can’t help but see the world through our own eyes. But one mark of maturity is learning to genuinely enter into the world of another, rather than always filtering their story through our own. This is especially important to do with sufferers for two reasons.

First, everybody’s story is different. Maybe God gave us a better house after our first one burned to the ground, or maybe we’re able to see the good side of a friend’s betrayal. But in a fallen and confusing world, it’s entirely possible your suffering friend may never get there in this life. Some sorrows won’t mend until heaven. So we really don’t know enough to be able say, “You’ll be glad this happened.”

Second, even if our stories are similar, our suffering friend may not need to hear that right now. A good question to ask is: “Is sharing my story more about meeting my need, or about serving my friend’s need?” At the very least, we should listen carefully to the nuances of a sufferer’s story before we draw comparisons.

3. Minimize the wrongdoing that caused the suffering.

I’m not sure why we tend to do this, but we do. It’s that karma instinct. We say things like “I’m sure they meant well,” or “It can’t be that bad,” or “Well, in every conflict the blame is on both sides.”

But the truth is we don’t know that someone meant well. Maybe they didn’t. We don’t know that it wasn’t that bad. Maybe it was. And blame is not always 50/50. Sometimes it’s 80/20. Sometimes it’s even 100/0. That seems to be God’s verdict on Job and his friends (Job 42:7).

When you’re sitting with a sufferer, don’t minimize the sin that has contributed to their suffering. An honest acknowledgement of evil—without any excuses or evasions—will be to their pain like water to a parched man.

4. Emphasize character formation while neglecting comfort and compassion.

If the New Testament emphasizes anything about suffering, it’s that God uses it to produce godly character in us (e.g., Rom. 5:3–5James 1:2–4). And yet, when someone is in the midst of suffering, this probably isn’t the point to emphasize—especially if we don’t have a trusting relationship established. If the topic needs to come up at all, it should be balanced with words of comfort and compassion.

In cases of severe suffering, it can be best to avoid or minimize words altogether. This is difficult to do. We tend to share Eliphaz’s instinct: “Who can keep from speaking?” (Job 4:2). But our hurting friend probably needs our love and presence far more than our interpretations and ideas. It’s more helpful, rather than trying to relieve or even understand their suffering, to just be with them in it. Press into the darkness with them. Hang in there with them in that moment, in that space, in that pain.

Aslan’s Tears

In this way we can be like Jesus to the suffering, for this is how Jesus is to us. He doesn’t shield us from suffering in this life, nor does he offer trite pep talks when the darkness descends. He promises that when it comes, he will be with us. In fact, we find him most truly in our brokenheartedness:

  • “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted.” (Ps. 34:18)
  • “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.” (Isa. 61:1)

There’s a scene in The Magician’s Nephew where a little boy named Digory meets Aslan. His mother is sick, and he wants to ask for Aslan’s help, but he’s afraid. Lewis writes:

Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great front feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself. “My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another.”

What a world of comfort is bound up in those words, “I know.” Christ is close to sufferers because he is the Great Sufferer. He is the ultimate Job, stricken by undeserved calamity; the ultimate Joseph, betrayed by his very brothers. On the cross, Jesus took on our sins and absorbed the full sting of justice on our behalf, sinking down into the depths of hell and forsakenness. No one has ever suffered more; no one ever could. Such a depth of love can meet our need in the moment of pain.

To the sufferers in our lives, may we be less like Job’s friends and more like Jesus Christ.

If you would like help with your suffering or help in coming alongside a sufferer, please contact CornerStone Family Services to talk with a counselor or coach.

Man Therapy

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Sometimes the idea of counseling can be intimidating for men because some in culture say that counseling is a sign of weakness, especially in men. In order to help combat the terrible and false idea that it is weak for a man to seek counseling, tools such as the website Man Therapy have been created. Take a look at the website and the various tools available for those who realize that a healthy man takes care of his mental and emotional health.


For any man or woman who would like to talk with someone to help take care of their mental and emotional health, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

6 Ways to Help A Grieving Friend

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6 Ways to Help A Grieving Friend

By Sam Altis

Two years ago, I endured what was, hands down, the most painful season of my life. After a series of long-term, compounding health issues, my dad died suddenly. Part of me felt like contacting wrongful death lawyer Gary Bruce as I felt that he could have been saved, but I don’t think it would have given me the peace I was craving.

My experience of grief shaped me in profound ways that I am still discovering, but one of the things that has come most clearly out my grief is the desire to see others grieved with well. When comforting a grieving friend, everyone has good intentions. Unfortunately, those good intentions often don’t translate to loving, helpful action. And when you’re grieving, you don’t have the energy to see through to good intentions.

So, as I reflect on my own experience of loss, here are a few things you can do for a friend who has lost someone they love deeply.

Don’t try to fix it.

I remember standing in line at my dad’s visitation and enduring an endless string of well-intentioned one liners. Classics like “He’s in a better place” and “You’ll see him again someday.”

Then a total stranger came up and said something completely different that stuck with me: “It doesn’t get better. It gets different.”

Here is what was so impactful about that statement: She wasn’t trying to fix anything.

Most of the things we say to a grieving friend attempt to smooth over their pain. Grief can’t be fixed or smoothed over. It has to be endured and, in some sense, it never goes away. It gets different. Less pervasive. Less overwhelming. But it’s always there because the person we lost is not.

Whatever you say to a grieving friend, make sure it doesn’t try to fix their grief.

Do something tangible and simple.

There was one day in the weeks that followed my dad’s death that felt particularly overwhelming.

I was exhausted, indescribably sad and hurting in ways I didn’t know were possible. And then a package came in the mail. The teens that I worked with at the time had made me cards and sent gift cards to cover meals. I could feel their love in this simple expression, and it gave me just enough energy to go on.

Unless they’re particularly profound or horrible, the things we say to our grieving friends won’t be remembered. What will be remembered are the tangible acts of love we do for them: meals, cards, showing up. So if you’re lost for words, don’t say anything. Just do something simple.

The latte you bring them may just sit coldly on the table, but they’ll feel your love in the action. That love is the best thing you have to offer them.

Ask about the person they lost.

After my dad’s visitation, my wife and I went to dinner with some friends. After a few minutes, the conversation lulled and that “what can we possible say” silence set in. Then my friend said the best thing anyone could have in that moment: “Tell me about your dad.”

Talking to a grieving friend can feel like walking through a mine field. You don’t want say something that will trigger a fresh wave of grief or hurt the person because you said the wrong thing. This, almost always, seems to result in avoiding mentioning the loved one who was lost. This can actually be the worst thing for someone who is grieving.

When you’ve lost someone, you want to hold on to them in any way you can. Often this is through talking about them to others. It’s incredibly comforting, even for just a moment, to share about the person you lost. Give your friend the opportunity to do so.

Be slow to compare.

In the wake of losing my dad, I was flooded with conversations about my loss, most of which I don’t remember at all. What I do remember is a theme: comparison.

Many people said things like, “I know how you feel, I lost an uncle,” or “I felt the same way when my boyfriend broke up with me.” This was well-intentioned, but usually pretty unhelpful.

When we bring up our own experience with grief to a friend who has lost someone, we’re shooting for empathy.

Unfortunately, what we often end up doing is minimizing the uniqueness of their loss. Every grief is different because every person and relationship lost is different.

If you want to show empathy without comparing, try to identify the feelings you felt in your grief and ask your friend how they’re handling those same feelings. This simple act says, “You’re not alone” while avoiding comparing losses.

Don’t have expectations for their grief.

Perhaps the greatest act of love I received in my grief came from how my wife walked with me. As grief hit me and I responded with everything from anger, to numbness, to tears, my wife sat with me uncritically. She never questioned how I was responding. She was just sad with me, which is all I needed from her.
For more help in the grieving process, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

5 Myths About Depression Men (and Everyone) Need to Stop Believing

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5 Myths About Depression Men (and Everyone) Need to Stop Believing

By Joshua Beharry

There are many misconceptions about depression that make it difficult for men to talk to others and take charge of their health. So, I’m going to expose some of the most common myths – with images made by HeadsUpGuys – in hopes to encourage men to take action and fight depression.

Here are some myths about depression men need to stop believing:

Myth #1: Depression is a sign of personal weakness.

Depression can affect anyone including professional athletes, musicians, actors, lawyers, businessmen, writers, tradesmen, teachers, men in the military and everyone in between. Being depressed has nothing to do with personal weakness. It takes strength to fight depression.

Myth #2: Depression is a life sentence.

When you’re depressed it may not seem like recovery is possible, but depression is clouding your thoughts. The fact is that many guys, including men who have tried to end their lives, have recovered from depression and suicidal thoughts. Using medicinal cannabis has been one way people have managed to overcome this. Finding cannabis in michigan is a very simple task. It can be very time consuming to find cannabis that specifically helps with depression. So, if you want to get your hands on some quicker, then why don’t you take a look at girl scout cookies weed which have been known to help relax people with depression.

Myth #3: Real men don’t ask for help.

Many guys feel the need to solve things on their own and don’t like to ask for support whenever it can be avoided. But in other situations, like sports or physiotherapy, the same guys are more open to seeking the advice of professionals. Yes, you can try and beat depression naturally without anti-depressants by using the tips on, but it’s important to remember that even by reinforcing these solutions, you still need the help and support from people around you. Talking to people about how you feel is one of the best ways to help improve your mood. Make the most of the services and supports available in your area. In fact, you might find the help you need right here in the form of personal therapy.

Myth #4: If I can find a way to plough through, I can defeat depression on my own.

You win no awards for fighting depression on your own. Friends and family members are valuable supports in a guy’s recovery and often want nothing more than to support a man they care about.

Myth #5: Talking to a guy about depression will make things worse.

Better health starts with a conversation. Though it may be difficult or awkward at first, talking about depression could actually end up changing a man’s life. Take the initiative to be a key step in his recovery, if he isn’t ready let him know you’re there whenever he needs.


If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call 911 or Netcare at 614-276-2273.

Social Media Suicide Safety Teams

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online help mouseHelp Someone Else Online

By National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

From time to time you may encounter a person who is expressing thoughts of suicide on your social media sites. If someone you know online is showing any of these warning signs, it is important that you post a message encouraging them to call the Lifeline. If you are friends with the person in real life or know where the person is, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) so that you can talk to a crisis counselor.

  • Writing about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
  • Writing about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Writing about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Writing about being a burden to others.
  • Writing about seeking revenge.

Contact Safety Teams at Social Media Sites:

  • Facebook: Click here to anonymously report someone as suicidal on Facebook. A member of Facebook’s Safety Team will send the user an e-mail with the Lifeline number and possibly a link to chat with Lifeline counselor.
  • Twitter: Click here and select “Self-Harm” to send an e-mail to Twitter reporting a suicidal user. Twitter will send the user a direct message with the Lifeline number.
  • MySpace: Click on the “Report Abuse” link that appears at the bottom of every MySpace page and complete the form. MySpace will then send an e-mail to the MySpace user with the Lifeline number.
  • YouTube: To report suicidal content, click on the flag icon under a video and select “Harmful Dangerous Acts” and then “Suicide or Self-Injury.” You Tube will then review the video and may send a message to the user that uploaded the video with the Lifeline number.
  • Tumblr: Click here to write an e-mail to Tumblr about a suicidal user. Include as much information as possible including the URL of the Tumblr blog. A member of Tumblr’s Safety Team will send the user an e-mail with the Lifeline number.

Get More Help:

Find a Therapist or Support Group

Speaking to a therapist or attending a support group can help you work through your grief and improve your overall mental health. The following resources can help you find a psychologist, psychiatrist or support group near you.

Create a Safety Plan

Having a plan in place that can help guide you through difficult moments can make a difference and keep you safe.

Learn the Risk Factors

Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that an individual will consider, attempt, or die by suicide.