This has been helpful to many of my friends.
Some of the stupid things people say to those who are suffering:
  1. If you had enough faith, then Suzie wouldn’t be sick.
  2. The tongue has the power of life and death, so stop saying Suzie has a brain tumor.
  3. If you believe enough and confess with your mouth that Suzie is healed, then she will be healed.
  4. Have you tried…fill in the blank.
  5. Do you think there might be un-confessed sin in your life?
  6. Suzie is God’s gift and He can take her when he wants to.
  7. This was God’s plan for Suzie.
Now, having been ‘stupid’ myself, I understand the intent and motivation that often lies behind saying these kinds of things.  I wasn’t trying to be stupid; I was trying to help.  I thought I was bringing to bear the wisdom of God in a certain situation.  I truly thought what I was saying was going to be helpful and I thought what I was saying was true.  It is so easy to have the ‘word of the Lord’ when it isn’t your child, isn’t your husband, when you haven’t had the experience of watching someone deteriorate right in front of you, scream in pain, look at you like you should be able to do something, when it is you that feels so helpless and lost.  If you haven’t been there…keep your mouth SHUT.  Listen, be present, pray but don’t be God’s gift to make other people feel worse and even push them into the impossibility of living perfectly enough to avoid suffering.
Look at these things people say.  Give me a break.  Let’s put it this way, “Since you know about Suzie, how about we put you in charge of having enough faith, and if she dies it’s your fault.”  The whole premise of this ‘stupid’ statement is that faith is a ‘commodity’ that you can have ‘enough’ of it and once you have ‘enough’ (and nobody can tell you how much is enough) then you can do magic tricks.  It is a formula and formula has nothing to do with relationship.
Sure there is power of life and death in the tongue…your tongue.  Is what you are saying bringing and adding life to the situation, or are you speaking death?  This verse is not about healing but about the power of what we say to each other.
God doesn’t punish us because there is sin in our lives; God took the punishment we poured out on Jesus because there is sin in our lives.
It is so easy to be self-righteous when no one is sick in our family, when no one close to us is dying of cancer, when we think that the absence of suffering in our lives is because we have somehow made the right choices and are now receiving the reward.  Listen to me; everyone in this world is dying, right now.  You are going to die.  From the day you entered into this world you began dying.  If ‘faith’ could keep you healthy, surely there would be someone who never died, one person who had enough ‘faith’ to keep from deaths open maw.  God (Jesus) didn’t even escape it, but He did conquer it so much so that it was no longer called ‘death’ but ‘falling asleep’.  Some of us fall asleep quickly and quietly, others in great pain but we know who will kiss us awake and that hope is sure and certain.
The world is shattered.  We (humans) did that.  We made a declaration of independence, taking on the power of playing god, and then wonder why independent cancer cells are wreaking havoc in our bodies.  We bring to the cosmic table our communal sickness and demand that God fix it.  We require God stop the pain and suffering but out of good and kind respect for his creation he often refuses.  Does God do ‘anything’ that is not motivated by love?  NO!!!
There is so much about suffering that I don’t understand, but I will tell you this, it stops us in our tracks, makes us re-examine our sense of control, drives us into community (if we allow it) and transforms us in its crucible.  And then there is this mystery: we are somehow allowed to enter the holiest of places and share in the sufferings of Jesus, destroying evil by our presence in the midst of loss.  Some things are simply too precious to reduce to words.