A note from Kelly King: I have to admit that I don’t always know what to say to someone who is in the middle of a crisis or dealing with a painful situation. I’m sure I’m guilty of saying the wrong things—and even singing songs to a heavy heart as this article suggests. Because of what Kaye shares today, I’m going to be more mindful and intentional about what I can say next in those situations.
Several years ago I read a book by Dr. Kenneth C. Haugk called, Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart. God used this small, simple book to form the foundation for how I minister to people in pain. Dr. Haugk is a pastor and clinical psychologist; he is the founder and Executive Director of Stephen Ministries in St. Louis, Missouri. Stephen Ministries is a developed ministry to the hurting for use in churches. I love the title of this book! It is taken from Proverbs 25:20, “Singing songs to a troubled heart is like taking off clothing on a cold day or like pouring vinegar on soda.”
Isn’t that a wonderfully forming passage for those of us helping the hurting? There is much to unpack in this passage, but at its core it is about making helpful, not hurtful conversation and meaningful, not messy connections with people in pain. It’s about not dumping a bucket of happy to cover a wound. It is about listening well and responding carefully.
You see, every day we are making connections of some kind with the people we come in contact with. If you are ministering to hurting women, then you are making connections with people in pain. Whenever we connect with one another we would hope those connections are meaningful.
How do we know if we are making meaningful connections with people in pain? What do we say first? What is the best way to start a conversation that will assure we are making a meaningful connection? How do we not “sing a song to a troubled heart”?
According to Dr. Haugk, meaningful connections happen right after you say hello. Here are some of his suggestions of what to say next:
- “It’s good to see you.” This simple statement connects you in a meaningful way with the other person. I would add to say this with sincerity while making eye contact and connection physically with a touch to the arm if appropriate.
- “Fill me in on what’s been going on.” This is a much better way to start a conversation rather than saying, “How are you?” Why? Because no one who is suffering is doing well, but they do want to talk about their pain with someone who is committed to listening well.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? The words themselves might be easy to remember, but what makes the connection meaningful is your ability to listen to their story and your willingness to be quiet and simply hold what you hear. Practice using these two phrases this week and commit to making meaningful connections! Even as I write I am praying for you to do this well and for the Lord to speak to you, through you, and for you!
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live in the Chicago burbs where they are both on staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.