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In our desire to serve and minister to others, it’s easy to simply say, “Trust God and it’ll all work out” or “Everything will be fine” or “Praise Him even when you’re struggling.” I’ve said those very things myself to people in my effort to encourage them. And yes, I believe they are absolutely true statements.

But according to Proverbs 25:20, perhaps we need to be more sensitive to those who are heartbroken, struggling, suffering great loss, or feeling abandoned or betrayed by God:

“Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound.” Proverbs 25:20

Wow! When I read this verse, I wasn’t exactly sure how to process it in my own heart and mind. After all, we’re told that God inhabits the praises of His people. And James tells us to take joy in our suffering.

But then I remembered the time Jesus delayed coming when Lazarus was sick and dying. By the time He arrived Lazarus was dead. When Martha greeted Jesus, He didn’t say, “Take joy in your suffering” or “Praise God in the midst of your pain.” He told her that Lazarus would live again and proceeded to proclaim His own resurrection and that of His followers.

Then when He saw Mary crying, John says Jesus was deeply moved and troubled. Again, He didn’t say “Don’t worry, it’ll all work out in the end.” Instead, He cried and asked her where Lazarus was buried.

Our Savior knew the outcome would be better than they could have ever imagined, and yet, He was troubled and cried with Mary in her suffering.

Oh, that we would be deeply moved and troubled when others admit their pain to us! Let us seriously consider the responsibility associated with our calling. Let’s pray that our words bring comfort and peace, not the pain of vinegar in a wound.

Grace and peace,


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