Be wise in how you console people who are downhearted. I remember when a cousin of mine lost a baby a few days after birth. Some insensitive people told her; “Well, at least you have other children.” The look of distress on her face revealed that this was no help at all.
I came across this passage in the Bible from The Message which expresses it well: “Singing light songs to the heavyhearted is like pouring salt in their wounds” (Proverbs 25:20). I have noticed it with myself too; when I’m down, cheeriness is not soothing – it really grates on your nerves.
So how do we console people in a way that lifts them up without pouring salt on their wounds? It has always helped me when people just listen for awhile without trying to provide a solution. That gives permission to feelings without judgment. The time will come on its own to lift up and out but it will be easier having fully experienced all the feelings natural to the circumstance.
Saying things like; “This must be so hard for you” or “I know I don’t fully appreciate what you are going through right now but I want to be here for you” or simply “I’m so sorry” provide oil on wounds instead of salt. Sometimes admitting our own inadequacy to others’ sorrow is in itself consolation.
Finally, when we want to console someone we can entrust them into God’s care and claim this truth for them; “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). That’s true consolation!