Sorting through a stack of stuff, I tried to pull a note from the bottom. When I did, the pile came apart. Short on time and shorter on patience, I attempted to bundle it all up until . . . until the photographs slipped out from an old scrapbook binder buried in the stack. Suddenly, I was 20 years younger with three small kids; a lifetime of memories came flooding in.

Photo by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez (Lmbuga Commons) (Lmbuga Galipedia). Published by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

There was Ashley in her “Nala” costume, flat out on the couch after being at Disneyland for the day. Another of Ashley and Austin in their “101 Dalmatian” sweats I swore they would wear until death. Funny, kids don’t wear their childhood costumes for life like so many young parents wish they would. Another picture was a snapshot of all three: Ashley at age 4 trying to read to a very disinterested Austin and Jonathan.

A couple other photos followed: some portraying life on “easy” street with just one very typical child (if there is one), several from Southern California beaches, and a few from the Texas State Fair where my husband and I were trying to carefully bond together our newly blended family.

As I viewed these photos, my spirit turned quiet, and I pondered the passageways of life that had been exacting and, at times, an unforgiving educator. Such is the education of life; it inevitably teaches us that good intentions don’t always give back the desired results . . . the “best laid plans of mice and men.”

What You Don’t Say

Part of growing up means growing through tough seasons. Those who choose growth and wisdom are few, and, unfortunately, fewer know how to help others going through tough stuff. People will say some of the dumbest things to someone who is struggling. For example, here are things that no one should ever say to one who is hurting (and I’ve heard all of these):

  • “When are you going to get past that?”
  • “Don’t you think you have talked enough about this?”
  • “Well, at least you have other ‘normal’ kids.”
  • “God must have known you could handle something like this.”
  • “God never gives us more than we can bear.”

Those words do not help. They are like telling someone to whistle “Dixie” . . . while walking uphill, carrying a whopping 900-pound walrus on his or her back to a water fountain two miles up the road. Who cares about two miles up the road when life is totally falling apart where you are right now! Further, we don’t know what is around the bend, so why do we assume to know what is around the corner for someone else?

What You Say

Wise words given and received during tough times can soften our souls. Proverbs 16:21–24 says:

The wise are known for their understanding, and pleasant words are persuasive. Discretion is a life-giving fountain to those who possess it, but discipline is wasted on fools. From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive. Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (NLT)

If words are needed—and often they are not—and if you feel the need to say something, here are some simple ways to express concern as you come alongside someone in a tough spot:

  • “I am so sorry.”
  • “I cannot imagine how hard it must be.”
  • “How can I help?”
  • “What can I bring to your place . . . a meal, maybe some help with laundry or the yard?”
  • “What do you
  • “That has to be so hard.”

Today, do your words need some attention? Are you becoming a person of grace, and are others being comforted by a soul that has endured tough stuff?

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