What Do You Say in Horrific Situations?

Horrific situations are devastating for those affected and awkward for almost everyone else. Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any words and other times you feel as though you should say something. What do you say to those in the midst of overwhelming circumstances?

I think it’s helpful to acknowledge that words are inadequate. Think about when you are overwhelmed. Do you want someone blathering at you? Is there anything that is definitely not helpful to hear even if it is truthful?

A tweet by a megachurch pastor in Houston made me cringe. (OK, I did more than cringe.) As tropical storm Harvey was flooding the entire Houston area on Sunday he tweeted:

There’s a simple phrase you have to get in your spirit, “God’s got this.”

Besides bad theology, what does this tweet really say?

People are losing everything. They are clinging on for their lives – literally. They don’t know where their family and friends are or how they are faring. There is no let up of the rain or flooding. They have turned to social media because the 911 lines are completely inundated. People are desperate. Their lives are being changed forever. Recovery will take years. Some will never recover.

Do you want to hear “God’s got this” when you’re facing daunting destruction or unfathomable loss? Is that message helpful? Does that bring peace to your breaking heart or hope in your despair?

If you’re like me (if you even want to hear anything about God), you want to hear God has me. God is with me in and through all of this destruction and loss.  I am not alone even if I feel so alone and empty.

What I’ve heard over and over again from the first responders, volunteers, and people interviewed on the Harvey news is, “We need your prayers.” “If you believe in God or anything, please pray for us.” People need hope and hope always comes from beyond ourselves. We need to know that there are others who care about us and are holding us in their thoughts and prayers. People need to know they are not forgotten.

You. Are. Not. Alone.

When we’re in horrific situations we want to know we are not alone. We matter. We will be helped and supported through the long, painful journey of recovery. Maybe more than words, we need someone to just be there. The gift of presence is precious. There will many opportunities to help out in practical ways. There will be times when a thoughtful word from your heart is welcome.

In the meantime, what do you want someone to say to you when your heart is breaking and you don’t know how you’re going to move forward?

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