Rabbi Harold Kushner, the author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, wrote about his response to personal tragedy. His son Aaron had premature aging, and eventually died from this disease. The pain from the Rabbi’s loss provoked a crisis of faith. Kushner wrote his book for those "who have been hurt by life," to assist them in finding a faith that provides reasonable answers to aid them in coping with their suffering. Kushner explores the random nature of life and how certain spiritual explanations for tragedy left him feeling empty.

Recently, I made a trip to visit a friend who has terminal cancer. This was no easy task. I knew that it would be our last visit. I struggled over the issue of what things I wanted to explore to make sure that the time we spent together was uplifting for both of us. I was apprehensive about "saying the right things," but as I drove to her house I kept reminding myself to "just let things be the way they are." It was a time of closure and healing for both of us.

All of us are confronted with times of suffering. It is an inevitable part of the human condition. We are abused by a partner, we lose a job, we are betrayed by bandits who rob our homes, we experience the death of loved ones and we struggle with serious illness. No reasons adequately explain our hurt and disappointment. We are left with our grief.

Often, family and friends make honest attempts to respond to our trauma, but they may make matters worse through insensitive comments. In the name of God, they may make comments that leave us feeling annoyed and misunderstood - the very thing we do not need. Here are some of the unhelpful comments that I am referring to:

1. God will never ask more of us than we can endure.
2. Try not to think about it.
3. God is trying to teach you a lesson.
4. Don't let it get you down.
5. Everything that happens in life happens for a purpose.
6. God has singled you out because he recognizes your strength.
7. Getting upset about it doesn't do any good.
8. If you are not healing from your affliction, you lack faith in God.
9. Just remember, other people have it worse than you.

Trying to figure out why misfortune happens to us is fruitless. Some things appear to happen for no reason. As Kushner indicates, although there is ample evidence of God's handiwork among us, people are unable to accept random acts that occur within the universe. This leaves us feeling deprived of structure and security. I believe it’s not our searching for the reason for affliction that's important, it is our reaction to it. This is where our faith becomes important. When one is "down and out,” here is what you can to say to people:

1. Tell me how you feel about what happened?
2. That must feel awful.
3. It's not your fault that this happened.
4. Tell me how I can help you?
5. Would you like to talk more about it?
6. I am sorry that happened to you.
7. I'll keep in touch more often.
8. I'll pray for you and your family.
9. I'll be there for you.

We need to learn to be more sensitive to those who are suffering. As a partner or friend, our role is not to fix matters, but to learn to become a good listener. We must listen without trying to provide reasons and explanations that are not helpful. As I believe, we must "just be there and let things be the way they are."

Author's Bio: 

James P. Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC is an author, freelance writer and nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. He specializes in working with children and adults who experience anxiety, depression, grief and pain management issues. James is the featured Shrink Rap columnist for TheImproper.com, an upscale arts, entertainment and lifestyle web magazine. His first book, Stepping Out of the Bubble tells a story of risk and courage taken by those who seek to better their lives. He recently contracted with New Horizon Press to publish his latest work entitled, The Search for Adulthood: Saying Goodbye to the Magical Illusions of Childhood. James can be reached at http://www.krehbielcounseling.com.