Talking about suffering: When we miss our chance to have the conversation

I know I should talk about it,
I want to talk about it,
I planned to talk about it,
I prepared to talk about it…
But I missed my chance.
Am I a failure?

when we miss the chance to answer #caregiver #struggle #chronicillness #writer #hope #chronic #faith #watching #prayer

When we miss our chance to talk about illness

Why is there suffering? My friend asks. Does God care?

I open my mouth – but don’t reply.

Perhaps I was afraid. Perhaps I couldn’t find the words in time. Perhaps someone interrupts, or I misjudge the situation and think it would be best not to respond.

Has this ever been you?
If so, you know about the disappointment and guilt, when you later realise that you’ve missed your chance to speak truth with love.

Where do we go from here?

It’s easy to wallow in our perceived failure. But that’s neither healthy nor helpful! So what else can we do?

We can pray

We repent if we need to, but most of all we place the situation into God’s hands. He works in a multitude of ways, and our words are only one of them. He is perfectly capable of creating another ‘chance’ if He requires it.

We can chase the next step

And yet, this knowledge should not keep us from action! There is much we can do. Perhaps we are being called to:

  • Bring up the conversation again (however awkward this may be!).
  • Apologise to our Loved One and ask if we can share our thoughts.
  • Pray for our friend in front of them, and for ourselves too.
  • Ask other Christian’s advice if we don’t know what to say, and share what we’ve learnt with our Loved Ones.

We remember, we don’t have to know the answer

‘I don’t know, let’s find out.’ Or ‘I struggle with that question too’ can sometimes be far more powerful responses than the ‘right’ ones. Often they are all we can offer, so we should not let our pride prevent us from holding them out.

Alternate ways to answer the question of illness

What if we decide the ’right’ answer is not the right one for the situation? Or what if we find ourselves answering differently?

I think there is always a time and place for theological truths, but it is not every time and place. Sometimes the most fitting answer, the ‘right’ answer to our Loved One’s deep question is something quite different.

Sometimes the answer is not one we can put into words.
Sometimes our answer should simply be ‘let’s pray about it’.
Sometimes our answer is a hug.
Sometimes our answer is tears.
Sometimes our answer is a joke, or a cuddle with a cat, or a baked cookie.
Sometimes our answer is to fall asleep with our arms around them.
Sometimes our answer is listening silence.

And yet, whatever our answer is, it is always God.

My friends, I hope this has been an encouraging series for you. Talking about suffering is hard work, but it is rewarding – both on earth and afterwards. We serve a God who is Answer enough, and if all else fails point to Him, because He never fails.


When pure motives don’t always make things right
When not to talk about suffering
Why answering ‘The Question’ is so difficult

//What have you found most encouraging about this series? Are there any other questions on this topic which you’d like to see discussed?

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Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

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