What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say

Sarah Caskey

Right Place, Right Time

You’ve been there before in that moment when the unexpected news hit. Maybe you were the first person called, or maybe you just happened to be in the right place at the right time. What is the best thing to say to someone in a time of need? Here are some responses that can help in those moments and some examples of what to say when you don’t know what to say.


“How can I help?” 

This is a simple one when you don’t know what to say. Just ask how you can best serve those who are in a season of suffering. Would they just appreciate space? Can you offer to go on a walk with themMaybe give them the opportunity to verbally process how they feel? We often seek to console based off of how we would like to be treated in the moment, but we want to remember to honor others by seeking first to serve. 


“I’m here for you.” 

Let your presence be the starting place, whether that be on the other end of the phone or by offering your physical presence to them in their time of need. Your advice and opinions may not be needed here in this exact moment. But your listening ear and availability might just be the very blessing that someone needs. Remember that love shows up for others. Figure out the best way to do just that. 


“You’re not alone in this.” 

Some of the greatest reassurance we can receive is that we are not alone in the literal sense, but also that our experiences are not specific to just us. Others have gone before us, are currently experiencing a similar hardship, and or have been able to see it through to the other side. We want to be mindful, though, of our own tendency to take away from others’ hurt by making it about ourselves or connecting their pain to someone else’s. Consider how the Spirit may be leading you to offer reassurance in a more sensitive, compassionate way. 


“I’m proud of the way you are handling this.” 

This statement can illuminate even the darkest season someone may be going through. Consider the ways that you see someone enduring, persevering, and clinging to hope. Then, speak into their bravery and steadfastness in the midst of hardshipDon’t wait until after this difficult season is over and through; offer this affirmation as soon as you can if you see someone handing a difficult circumstance well. Your encouragement will mean more than you know. 


“It’s okay to be disappointed in the way things are.” 

This statement, too, is a big one that carries a lot of weight, no matter what the situation may be. Creating space for others to feel their big emotions is one of the greatest ways that we can show love, especially as Scripture does not attempt to hide the disappointments that so many people before us have experienced. Acknowledge their disappointment as they grieve their losses and unmet expectationsOne of the best ways to show how much you care is by offering a safe space for others to feel their pain and sadness without the fear of it overtaking them. Remind them that these emotions are valid and that this is what the body of Christ does for each other. 


In Prayerful Obedience

The perfect guide to being a good friend doesn’t exist. It’s hard to know how to care for others in a difficult situation, and you can’t know how your words or presence will be received. Trust that your love, support, and encouragement can plant a seed for others, even if you can’t see the fruit of it yet. Your faithful obedience in loving those within your circle of influence can open the door to even greater gospel conversations. Approach these conversations prayerfully, trusting that the Lord can use you in a time of need. He will give you the words to say even when you don’t know what to say.