Sometimes, it can feel like you can’t win when it comes to helping a person in pain. It can feel like saying anything will just add more hurt. (As we outlined yesterday, there are definitely some sayings to avoid.)

It may feel as if the best course of action is just to avoid the person, but that will make an isolating situation feel even more so for them. Here are four life-giving ways to respond to someone in pain:

Offer the ministry of presence.

When we look at the story of Job and his friends and all they got wrong, there is a brief moment when they got it right. In the first week, they showed up, mourned beside him, cried with him. They knew there was nothing they could say or do to fix his pain so they simply showed up. Pastor Rick Warren says it this way, “The deeper the pain, the fewer words needed.”

Offer the ministry of absence.

There is a time to be there and a time to step away, to release loved ones from the expectation of social events, meetings, small group gatherings, etc. Check in, but give permission to others to take all the time they need. This allows the Holy Spirit to move in the silence and space.

Keep showing up.

Grief and pain, no matter what kind it is, can impact everyone differently. Some need to be around others. Some self-isolate. Some want to talk. Some don’t want to talk at all. Your efforts of texts, meals, or phone calls can be met with radio silence or little feedback and so often that can be taken as “they don’t want my support.” But grief moves like scribbles across a page and while one day a person may need to be alone in the safety of their own darkened room, another day they can need someone to reach out. So be consistent. Check in. Don’t give up and don’t take it personally if it feels as if your efforts are rebuffed. Let them know: I’m here, I’m waiting and I’m willing to walk beside you in your pain. It can be the very thing God uses to remind them of His presence in the dark.

Practice compassion and patience.

We all deal with our hurt and disappointments in unique ways. While you may not fully understand your grieving friend’s pain or their emotional response to it, you can choose to use it as an opportunity to practice compassion and patience. The word compassion means to, “suffer with” and like Jesus had compassion on the crowds of hurting people he encountered (Matthew 20:34; Matthew 14:14; Mark 8:2; Matthew 9:36), we too can enter into the pain of another, choose to feel what they feel, be patient with them in their healing and act like Christ in that moment.

And friend, if you are the one in grief, show yourself some compassion, patience, and kindness as well.

We live in a world full of all kinds of hurts and brokenness. We all know what it is like to have our pain worsened by the unhelpful, well-meaning words of another – which is why learning to enter the pain of others is such an important practice for us. Becoming beacons of hope and comfort in hurt is exactly what a brokenhearted world is looking for and may be the very thing that brings healing to the deepest of wounds.

Pastors Brian From and Aubrey Sampson host The Common Good podcast Monday through Friday from 4 to 6pm (CT) on AM1160 Hope for Your Life. Aubrey is the author of The Louder Song: Listening for Hope in the Midst of Lament and the upcoming Known: How Believing Who God Says You Are Changes Everything. Brian leads Four Corners Community Church in Darian, Illinois. They are passionate about civility, compassion, and unity in a divided world.