Christian Living,  Church

Supporting Others in Times of Tragedy: Practical Guidelines for Helping Others

Knowing how to respond to someone experiencing tragedy can be challenging, but as members of a local church community, it is our responsibility to share in one another’s crises. Scripture provides valuable guidance in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, which encourages us to admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with everyone. These principles serve as a foundation for practical applications when speaking to someone in a crisis. But how does this look in practice? This article aims to provide three practical ways that we can comfort and support fellow brothers and sisters during difficult times.

We Can Engage in Conversation

Despite not fully understanding what someone is going through, we can still reach out to them and convey our love and care. It is natural to feel hesitant when addressing individuals who have experienced the loss of a loved one, fearing that we may evoke painful memories. However, most people find solace in sharing their thoughts and emotions, even if it means revisiting their grief. Communication is an essential element of nurturing relationships, and avoiding it during times of tragedy can strain those connections. By engaging in conversation, we demonstrate our willingness to listen and support them during their journey.

We Can Cultivate Genuine Care

Fear of saying the wrong thing or being at a loss for words often hinders our ability to console those in distress. Yet, as a wise mentor once pointed out, the authenticity of our compassion is irreplaceable. People recognize genuine care and sympathy, even if our words may not be perfectly articulated. With the right attitude, even if we stumble or express ourselves imperfectly, most individuals will appreciate our intentions and understand the underlying message. Being sincere in our interactions helps bridge the gap between our desire to help and the difficulty of finding the right words.

We Can Be Present

This guideline encompasses various forms of support, emphasizing the importance of being available and responsive to the needs of those who are hurting. Practical assistance such as providing meals, helping with funeral arrangements, or simply being a listening ear can make a profound difference. Sometimes individuals themselves may be unsure of their needs, requiring our wisdom and discernment to identify areas where we can offer meaningful support. It is essential to adapt to each unique circumstance, recognizing that there are instances when people may prefer a smaller circle of family or desire solitude during their time of grief. Wisdom and sensitivity are crucial in navigating these delicate situations.


These three practical guidelines offer valuable insights into how we can serve and support individuals who are facing tragedy within our churches. It is important to remember that these suggestions serve as helpful principles rather than rigid rules. Every situation presents unique circumstances, and flexibility is essential. Furthermore, personal growth is an ongoing process, and we all have room for improvement in our ability to empathize and assist others during difficult times. May these thoughts inspire and equip you to extend comfort and care to those who are hurting, as we strive to be compassionate and supportive members of our churches.

photo credit: Gabriel Kronisch Pilots via photopin (license)

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs The Bible Sojourner podcast and Youtube channel.