A Word Fitly Spoken

by Christina Deanne © 2012

I met my friend Cecy when she came to our church for the first time. She was diagnosed with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. However, you'd never know it. She gets around very well for herself and it is easy to forget that she is sick. Cecy is one who is positive and gifted with an inner strength that comes from the personality God has given her.

Not everyone is like her. This is especially true if a person has recently received a diagnosis for a chronic illness. Emotions are raw as your loved one or friend deals with
a new normal of doctor visits, tests and physical problems that may worsen. It is even harder on those with chronic illnesses that are invisible or not apparent.

We want to say a word of encouragement. We think our words are better than awkward silence. Unfortunately that is not always true. Here are a few examples of what not to say to someone dealing with a long term or chronic sickness.

      You are so strong and good.

It may be that a friend looks well groomed and dressed. It may have taken them hours to get ready just to look what they know will be presentable in a public place. It may also be that they pretend and put on a good face.

Do not assume that because she wears make up or he sports a brand new tie that she or he feels physically well. Compliment something specific, like a pair of earrings or his tie. Say how glad you are to see your friend. If you have not seen her in a while, tell her you have missed her.

      We know all things work together for good to those that love the Lord and the cousin phrase, God never gives us more than we can handle.

In my opinion, this is just a deflection, a churchy saying meant to keep someone at arm's length so ugly, uncomfortable feelings do not need to be shared. Romans 8:28 gets tossed out like a tissue.

If a person is struggling, this is the last verse she wants to hear. Better you say nothing and give a hug or send a card. A plate of homemade cookies or casserole dropped off at the door would mean so much more. When you don’t feel well and are exhausted, you know and appreciate the time and energy it takes to make something and deliver it.

The only time I will ever share Romans 8:28 is toward the end of a long discussion with a close friend and followed immediately with prayer.

      Just pray a little harder.

Someone with long term illness has prayed. She has prayed morning, noon and night about her symptoms and diagnosis. She’s prayed in the car, in the waiting room, in the bathroom, at the dining room table and at the kitchen sink. She’s prayed about it while listening to a sermon or opening the garage door.

Instead, you pray for her a little harder. Send a beautiful card by mail because a beautiful card is not a bill from the doctor. If you see her on Facebook or if you have her email, type a prayer using your own words and send it. I have been on the receiving end of prayers like that and I can tell you they brought me a needed refreshing of love and support.

There are many other things not to say so I will refer you to others who have written much longer lists.

You want to say something and the person longs to hear kindness and encouragement that points her/him to the faithfulness of God. Proverbs 25:11 says:

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Choose what to say carefully and lovingly. And remember sometimes the unspoken words are the golden ones.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christina Deanne is a wife and stay at home mother who lives in the Chicagoland area. She went back to college and received an Associates of Applied Arts in 2010. She has also written several articles about her experiences as a parent of a child with Asperger's syndrome.


  1. Thank you! We need reminders like this to help us be a better friend.

    1. I'm afraid I have been guilty of some these. Thank you, Chris, for offering us better ways.

  2. As someone who suffers from CFS, this hit the nail right on the head. Well-meaning friends have done all of the above. I like your suggestions for how people can really help us out. A card or a meal is an overwhelming act of generosity to me.

    1. I used to ask friends "how can I help?" but I learned there is a better way. Now I make it easier for them and ask if I can fix a meal, help with grocery shopping or the laundry, etc. I love it when I get an email that says my friend is praying for me just because. But I too often get caught up in the busyness of my day when it will only take a minute or two to send a card or email.

  3. If anything, please don't ever use Rom. 8:28 unless you are intimate close friends with a person. In my own experience, it is not helpful.

    My oldest has very mild autism and people would routinely quote that verse. I found the best encouragement to be homemade cookies on a paper plate with a plastic wrap cover. It showed me time, it showed me energy and it showed me kindness, especially toward my entire family.

  4. I agree, wholeheartedly with this! Nicely written, Chris!!

  5. Thanks for the kind words my dear friend! There's a reason God brought the girls and I to Crosswinds. Luv ya!

  6. so true that the sick person is to be prayed for by others. I don't know where we got that individualistic idea that people are to pray for their own illnesses. The church is to be their help and their family and their intercessors. Great article.