A Sidekick's Blog

Platitudes Can Be Worse than Saying Nothing

August 11, 2013
1 Comment

What I’m going through these days is actually pretty minor compared to what some other folks I know are going through. In an internet forum I participate in, someone was asking for prayer (not counsel, not sympathy, and certainly not platitudes) because his apparently unbelieving wife wants to walk away from their marriage and figures that their kids -now teenagers – can handle it now. So it sounds like it’s been a long time in coming. Folks responded to his requests with scripture and song quotations about the sweet by and by, and how nice it’ll be when we all get to heaven.

I fumed as I read them. Did they even know how much they were hurting this poor guy with those “helpful” platitudes?

Here was my contribution to the “discussion” (not an accurate term for it). I’m sharing it here because I want my readers to know that these well-meaning grand platitudes sometimes only work to piss people off and send them elsewhere – away from the family of God – for the support they need. My post:

No more tears in the next life is a precious truth, but I must admit there are times when I am genuinely offended by such sentiments in the midst of present, profound heartache in this life.

The Pat Terry Group had a song entitled, “Don’t Take it So Hard” in which they mocked the inappropriate use of the next life’s comforts as a response to someone in marked pain, physical or emotional.

There’s a million angels up in heaven tonight,
So baby don’t you take this so hard.


Far more useful to me in times of excessive sadness, despair, pain, and heartbreak is the knowledge of God’s sovereign purpose in this life, where even the most evil of intentions are twisted by the Almighty to serve His glorious purposes.

  • To redeem a people for Himself out of Adam’s fallen race,
  • That the wicked shall be to the praise of His glorious justice,
  • That the righteous shall be to the praise of His glorious mercy,
  • That the visible universe shall testify of His might, wisdom, imagination, and love.

Far more comforting to me is the example of Joseph, sold into slavery, falsely accused, jailed, and wrongfully persecuted for the purpose of providing for his family’s hardship at a future time. The example of the three Hebrew children, wrongly sentenced to incineration by a wicked tyrant and thrown into a furnace so hot that it killed the guards who threw them into the flames, to show God’s character towards His own. God could have spared Shadrach, Meschack, and Abednigo from the terror of being arrested, sentenced, and thrown alive into a furnace. He could have prevented their terror and the fear they must have felt. Yet rather than prevent it, He accompanied His children through their ordeal, and in His presence not a single hair was singed nor was the smell of smoke detectable ion their unburned clothing. God’s way showed His character and His power in a far greater way than preventing it from happening could have done.

I suffered hideous abuse as a child. Physical, mental, emotional, and sexual. My brother suffered through the same abuse. One of us was left with emotional scars and psychological damage that resulted in a lifelong pattern of addiction, inability to hold a job or to relate to peers or maintain a roof over his head. Chronically homeless and destitute no matter how much help is offered, it is squandered and my brother returns – like a dog to it’s own vomit – to the familiar childhood coping mechanisms of escape that don’t work for adults. Yet I emerged from my trial (which lasted from age 7 through 17) without “smelling like smoke,” so to speak, because my Savior was there the whole time, accompanying me through years of abuse and preserving me from it’s damage. When people hear about my childhood many of them snort, “There! Your own story proves my point! A god of love would not allow an innocent child to suffer!

No, my story – aside from the point that children are not innocent – proves that God is gracious and healing to His children, working all things to His all-wise and wonderful purposes, and that even the wicked He uses to reveal His nature and compassion.

Yes, there are millions of angels up in heaven tonight. And yes, the next life will be free of tears and pain and death and loss. Glorious truths, to be sure. But for today, in the midst of great pain, know also that He is present with His children through their suffering, using even the wicked’s plans to bless His children and bring Him glory.