I recently had a pastor asked me, “If someone comes to church who is chronically ill and they have not looked great recently, and now they look better than usual, is it not okay to then say ‘You look so good’?”
I thought about it for a moment and replied, “Well, if it was me, I would think, ‘Gee, I must have been looking really terrible!’ As much as I intellectually know it is a compliment, it would not make me feel good, but rather worse about myself.”
“I understand what you’re saying,” said another woman. “Because it is still a comment on our outward appearance.”
Scripture tells us, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
When we receive comments on our physical appearance is easy to interpret these in two ways:
1. You don’t how poorly my body feels underneath all this skin! I may look great, but I feel awful. You aren’t “seeing” the real me.
2. You don’t know what is going on with my emotional or spiritual state right now (either of which could be having a high or low moment.) I’m glad I don’t look terrible, but there is so much mre to me than just my appearance.
Why Should We Be So Careful to What We Say to Those with Illness?
We are to attempt to be more Christlike in our actions and Scripture tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
I have known the pastor who asked this question for over 30 years, Never in any way would he want to hurt someone or take the chance that his words could be misunderstood. He actively lives compassion every day.
So this is one of those opportunities that I want to point out that there is room for education and information out there in our churches for even the most spiritually mature to better understand how their words can impact those who live chronic illness.
So often we want to say what we want to say, and we want to figure out an explanation for why we should get to say it. But instead, we must consider what the person most needs to hear–not what we want to say.
Job asks in Job 6:26, “Do you mean to correct what I say, and treat the words of a despairing man as wind?” Even those who are men of God has Job was feel like when they are despairing, the words of friends need to be carefully communicated.
Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Wow. We may realize that our bones may not literally be healed just by kind words, but if you have experienced someone saying “the right thing” at the right moment, you know how much lighter you feel, your spirit renewed, simply by words.
If we are truly trying to reach out and comfort those with chronic illness, especially those who do not yet know Jesus, then we must come to them with the very gentlest and most sincere words that they are receptive to hear.
What are some of your favorite things to hear?
When someone tells you that you look good what does your inner self feel?
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and some days no one would tell her, “you look so good.” I think when you try to look good it’s nice when someone notices the effort. When you look horrible and you know it, it feels more condescending–even if people have the best of intentions.
- Is Suffering Inevitable But Fear Optional? (chronicillnesspaindevotionals.wordpress.com)