When I have asked suffering people, “Who helped you?” not one person has mentioned a PhD from a prestigious seminary or a famous philosopher. All of us have the same capacity to help those who hurt.

No one can package or bottle the “appropriate” response to suffering. If you go to the sufferers themselves, some will recall a friend who cheerily helped distract them from their illness. Others think such an approach insulting. Some want honest, straightforward talk; others find such discussion unbearably depressing.

There is no magic cure for a person in pain. Mainly, such a person needs love, for love instinctively detects what is needed. Jean Vanier, who founded the L’Arche movement for the developmentally disabled, says: “Wounded people who have been broken by suffering and sickness ask for only one thing: a heart that loves and commits itself to them, a heart full of hope for them.”

Such a love may be painful for us. But real love, the apostle Paul reminds us, “Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).

As is so often His pattern, God uses very ordinary people to bring about His healing. Those who suffer don’t need our knowledge and wisdom, they need our love.