Stupid things christians say

Some years ago after my family had gone through a relocation we hadn’t lived in the house for 15 minutes before we met our new next door neighbors, the Abbate Family. We would quickly learn about the loss of their son Luke, who was a sophmore at Harrison High School when he passed away 5 years ago as the result of being a passenger in tragic car wreck.

Before moving to Atlanta, we spent the previous year walking with some dear friends as their 5 year old daughter battled for her life against cancer. In fact I have previously blogged about the ongoing story of Kate McRae and her family.

More recently my family has been going through our own little mini-crisis, as out of the blue we discovered that we were going to be transitioning and have been looking for new job. Hardly comparable to the thought of potentially losing one of my children.

Through all of these moments and more what has amazed me is how inept so many Christians seem to be at expressing real heartfelt love and concern. I mean of all people who should know how to walk with and care for the hurting and the suffering it should be Christians right? I’m not saying they don’t care. And I’m not saying there haven’t been moments of genuine and at times even extravagant expressions of love poured out. But the reality is a sad majority of Christians honestly just don’t know what to do when others around them are going through crisis, and so they do nothing. Or worse they say something stupid. Here are my top 5:

1. How are you doing?

How do you think they’re doing? How would you be doing if you were walking in their shoes right now?

2. Everything is going to be alright.

Easy for you to say, you’re not living in it. Yes, it’s true. God does work all things together for the good for those that love Him (Romans 8). But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt when you’re in the thick of it.

3. Is there any sin in your life?

Let’s just pour some more salt in that wound shall we. Really? Yes, people really say this stuff. Does God discipline His children, of course He does. He’s a good Father. But this isn’t where you want to start if you want to encourage someone.

4. I know how you feel.

No you don’t. You’ve never traveled what they’re going through right now! Don’t say it if you really haven’t been there. And even then…probably not the most helpful thing to say to get the conversation started.

5. God won’t give you more than you can handle.

You got to love it when Christians take Scripture out of context. The truth is Jesus said in this world we will have all kinds of trouble. And guess what, at times it will feel like it is simply more than you can handle. That’s where grace comes in. Oh, and that verse that Christians like to quote other hurting Christians about God not giving you more than you can handle…it’s about God providing a way out of temptation not tragedy.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I Corinthians 10:13

Guess what? Sometimes bad things do happen to good people. And God isn’t the cause of it…but He meets you there in the middle of it. It was sin for Joseph’s brothers to beat him up, throw him in a well, sell him into slavery, and lie to their father about it. God wasn’t the cause of that, his brother’s jealousy was. But God did walk with Joseph through it, and yes He even used it to prepare Joseph for some big stuff to come. Check out Genesis 37 & 39-45

If you know someone going through real tragedy let me encourage you. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just be there. Recently my family was leaving church and someone recognized us. She came up to us and said she had been praying diligently for us and asked if she could take us to lunch. And lunch with our three kids isn’t always cheap (they can put away some food). We sat there, ate lunch, and talked about normal stuff i.e. tree houses, Rock Band, and school. She wasn’t trying to solve the problem or probe and get the scoop. She was just there and expressed real love and concern in a tangible way.

You know, as soon as my neighbor mentioned the story of his son to me I new who he was, and I knew the story. You see, being an avid College Football fan I remember ESPN running a story on Wake Forest and their star linebacker Jon Abbate, who would go on to play in the NFL. That year Wake was picked to finish last in the ACC. And in what turned out to be a Cinderella Story of a season they went on to win the ACC. Their story has just been turned into a movie called “The 5th Quarter.” In fact you can check out the trailer below.

Posted in Family, Leadership

8 Responses to “Stupid things christians say”

  1. Ward Townsend April 11, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    as you have experienced first hand, my heart yearns to help and encourage when someone is hurting deeply. I agree that in most of these times ANY words and attempts simply fail miserably… perhaps even in those deepest situations consolation is not possible at that time, but later perhpas. For some encouragement comes easy and is even a gift from Papa, but for the rest of us, what are some general guidelines that we can learn to apply? I understand everyone is different and is encouraged differently, but is there some common ground that can be used as a starting point? : )
    your friend,
    Ward Townsend

  2. paul alexander April 11, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    Here are a couple of general principles I try and follow when encouraging people who are walking through real pain: 1) Don’t try and solve it 2) Be there 3) Serve them 4) Pray for them 5) Invite conversation but don’t force it

    • Bradford Brunkenhoefer May 3, 2012 at 8:33 am #

      Spot on, Paul. Sometimes the best ability you have to show you care is just simply availability…nothing more. Just be there for them.

      As for serving them in times of grief, another thing I can suggest not to say is “Call me if you need anything.” They aren’t going to call you. They’re in the middle of an emotional trainwreck and the last thing they want to do is anything that makes them feel like they’re imposing on you. At a time like this, they have little if any capacity to reach out…so reach out to them instead.

      Better course of action? Make the first move. Offer to take them out to breakfast or a movie. Show up at their door with bagels and coffee. By going out of your day for them without them even asking, it works a whole lot better.

      • Paul Alexander May 3, 2012 at 9:29 am #

        Totally with you on the “Call me if you need anything.” You’ve got to make the first move. People who are hurting need to be pursued, we shouldn’t expect them to know what they need in the moment. Right on!

  3. Amanda Chavez April 12, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    Really interesting read! I have definitely been guilty of saying dumb things before. Thankfully I am learning how to not try and solve someone’s problems but to ask questions if they are up to talk about it, pray for them, and serve/support them. Can be really hard to stick to sometimes.
    One of the things I have been thinking about is why? Why do you think we can so easily ask such dumb questions? Do you think it’s a spiritual maturity thing that people eventually learn if they are growing? Or maybe something that people should be more formally coached in?

  4. paul alexander April 12, 2011 at 6:52 am #

    Great question! I think ONE of the key reasons we wind up saying dumb things like this is the simple fact that many Christians have bought into the lie that says, “Christ exists to make my life better.” Many Christians wrongly believe that following Christ means a better life, an easy life, a nicer house, a nicer spouse, more obedient children, a better job, and a larger income. Again, ONE of the problems is that in America Christians aren’t very well acquainted with suffering, so as a result we don’t know how to act in the face of it. BTW I lump myself into that category too.

  5. Ben smith April 18, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    Exceptional article especially the list of 5 stupid things people say. Thanks a lot smile

  6. Anne August 12, 2015 at 3:48 am #

    I am really enjoying your blogs. Thanks for sharing truth. And this trailer of the Fifth Quarter. Pretty amazing story. I am going to watch this movie this weekend!

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