How to Help the Suffering | Revive Our Hearts Episode

Tina: Hi, I’m Tina from Wooster, Ohio, and I’m a Revive Our Hearts Monthly Partner. One reason I support this ministry is, it has blessed me over the years. I’ve received much encouragement. Enjoy today’s episode of Revive Our Hearts, brought to you in part by the Monthly Partner Team. God bless!

Dannah Gresh: Do you ever feel like shutting people out? Relationships can be complicated, especially when you’re hurting, but Colleen Chao says community is important.

Colleen Chao: God has given us extraordinary people. He’s given us an amazing community, and each one brings a different, beautiful gift!

Dannah: This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Heaven Rules, for March 17, 2023. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: When you’ve got a friend who is hurting deeply, sometimes it can be really hard to know what to do, what to say. We’ve all …

Tina: Hi, I’m Tina from Wooster, Ohio, and I’m a Revive Our Hearts Monthly Partner. One reason I support this ministry is, it has blessed me over the years. I’ve received much encouragement. Enjoy today’s episode of Revive Our Hearts, brought to you in part by the Monthly Partner Team. God bless!

Dannah Gresh: Do you ever feel like shutting people out? Relationships can be complicated, especially when you’re hurting, but Colleen Chao says community is important.

Colleen Chao: God has given us extraordinary people. He’s given us an amazing community, and each one brings a different, beautiful gift!

Dannah: This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Heaven Rules, for March 17, 2023. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: When you’ve got a friend who is hurting deeply, sometimes it can be really hard to know what to do, what to say. We’ve all been there. There may be some practical things we can do like bring them a meal or run some errands for them, or maybe just sitting and being with them.

If you’ve ever been through much suffering yourself, you know what a blessing those kinds of things can be. You probably also know what it’s like to be hurt by the things that well-meaning people might say.

This is all something that our guest today, Colleen Chao, has had a lot of experience with. Yesterday she talked about how God is teaching her to have joy, even as she battles terminal cancer. If you missed that program, you’ll want to go back and listen to it at or on the Revive Our Hearts app.

Today, Colleen and Dannah are going to talk about the importance and the challenges of engaging with others in their suffering . . . and in our own suffering. Before we listen to their conversation, I want to let you know about a beautiful book that Colleen has written during her time of suffering with cancer, knowing that she is terminal.

It includes thirty-one devotional readings on suffering, and it’s called In the Hands of a Fiercely Tender God. I love that! If you’ve ever asked questions like, “How do I suffer long and well?” or “What about when I feel maybe God is holding back on me the life I long for and deserve that He’s not giving me?” or “How do I face overwhelming, pressing darkness?”

If you’ve wondered any of those things or have friends who have, you’re going to want to get this book. Colleen will challenge you and those you love to love and trust Jesus better as you walk together through suffering.

When you give a gift to Revive Our Hearts today, we want to say thank you by sending you a copy of Colleen’s book. I’m so thankful for all that friends like you are doing to help us reach more women around the world with the message of God’s grace for hurting people! 

You can make a donation when you go to, or you can call us at 1-800-569-5959. When you give, be sure and ask us to send you a copy of Colleen’s book. Thank you so much for your prayers and your support for Revive Our Hearts. Now, here’s Colleen talking with Dannah Gresh.

Dannah: Colleen, I just came into the studio from my office where I have a friend—co-worker—who’s grieving because her stepfather passed away fairly suddenly over the weekend.

And this morning what she needed to process through were all the unkind and awkward things that people said to her mother all weekend long. We sure do hurt each other sometimes.

Colleen: We do.

Dannah: So, how do we approach someone’s suffering in a way that’s not only kind and helpful, but also biblical, guided by the Word? Because, we can’t go wrong when we go to the Scriptures for how we approach something. Will you help us with that today?

Colleen: I’d love to try. I feel limited in this, because I have messed up a lot in this area. I have not cared for people the way that I wished. When I look back I think, Oh, man! I got that so wrong back then!

So, I have a tenderness in this journey of ours with people who don’t get it right, because I have also messed up so much in this area. But one thing, it’s funny . . . I was just texting with my friend, who also has Stage IV cancer, this morning. We were texting about this very thing. There are so many really hurtful things, that, of course, are well intentioned, right?

We can assume that that person is really wanting to love us and come alongside, but they lack the skills or the experience, maybe. They haven’t gone through maybe enough life yet to be tender to the suffering days.

I think one thing that really stands out to me through this long journey, now . . . Because there were a lot of comments in singleness, a lot of comments in chronic illness, a lot of comments in financial stress, you know? No matter where you’re at and what you’re facing, people can just say crazy things, right? All of us are guilty of that. So . . .

But the thing that I keep coming back to is having a sensitivity to the Spirit, to His leading, and to making an effort to synchronize with where someone’s at, because we’re all so different. Some people want the questions, some people don’t want the questions.

On one day they might want one thing, the next day they want something else. None of us is God, none of us is going to do this perfectly like God can. But when we lean into praying, “God, please give me wisdom for how to care for this particular friend on this particular day.” He is so faithful to that!

And, here’s a tricky thing. It’s hard to say without (I’ll let you kind of mush through this with me. You can give some direction.)

Dannah: Let’s mush.

Colleen: Let’s mush. I think we’re quick to send a verse because we don’t know what to do, and that can come across like Job’s friends. Sometimes the best thing to do before we share Scripture, which, this sounds weird to say, but we sit with someone in their “ashes and their boils.”

Job was sitting there in excruciating suffering and loss! And his friends said some right things, they had some great truths, but wrong timing! So, until we can sit in the grief and mix our tears with our friend’s tears and figure out where they’re at, I am very slow to share a verse. But then eventually, there’s a beautiful time to do so, but it’s after we’ve been with them in their grief and figured out where they’re at.

I think the verses, they’ve really been hurtful over time because it’s not been Spirit led; it’s [been] just this verse thrown out. Scripture is powerful and it changes our hearts, and I love it with all my heart. It’s my life! But there’s a sensitivity to the Spirit that we need when we do that.

Dannah: You just confirmed something that I was feeling insecure about. One of my best friends and prayer warriors just had a double knee replacement! Why they did them both at the same time, I really don’t know, but I think she was afraid she’d chicken out if she had to do it a second time.

But she is in excruciating pain, it’s only been about a week today. I’ve been checking in with her in text, because it’s just not appropriate for me to visit yet, even though she’s one of my dearest friends. She just wants her nurse and her husband, that’s what she wants right now.

I started to text out a Scripture verse and suddenly felt this, “No, no, no!” in my heart. I thought, Well, that’s really funny, because we text verses back and forth all day. I just felt like I was supposed to tell her how much it stunk that she was in so much pain!

And I just said, “I am so sorry you are hurting so bad! I wish I could take it away!” Send. But it felt so insufficient when I did it, you know? But it was enough for that moment.

Colleen: Just hearing you say those words . . . I mean, those unlock my heart sometimes, when somebody just says that. It gives me permission to just weep and feel all the feelings. Then I know that they’re going to lead me to God, right? They’re not going to leave me stranded there. But just their validation of, “This is really hard!”

And I love how you said, “I wish I could take it away!” Like, oh! That’s such a beautiful way to care for a friend!

Dannah: Yes. I wish I could take your cancer away; I hate that you have it because you’re such a bright light in this world! What kinds of things have been helpful for you as people have ministered to you? What can we learn that’s useful?

Colleen: Well, just what you did, as you explained the dynamic of your friend just wanting her husband and nurse right now. It’s been amazing to see friends who have been so in tune and so sensitive to not overwhelm us and to just being there.

They’re ready to come over and sit on the couch with me and chat when I’m ready, but they’re also not pushy for that. They’re not demanding. What I’ve found over time is, the friends who have really high expectations during the hardest days don’t tend to be long-term friends, because I’m going to disappoint them a lot because I can only handle so much; my capacity is maxed out a lot. And so, if they want a lot of time and they want to be my closest friend and do all these things for me, then that will be overwhelming. 

But we’ve had so many people really get it and just be so precious about dropping something at the doorstep—like dropping a bag of groceries or flowers or a gift card for groceries or a number of things.

Over the holidays people just sent money for whatever. They didn’t say “for medical,” although that’s a crazy budget item for us! It’s just “no strings attached” kind of love, where it’s like, “No pressure, no expectations. Here’s what I want to do, without any obligation to return the message or return the . . .”

When someone is in the thick of it, it’s so much to try to even keep up with communication. We’ve just had so many people get it right and do it beautifully! It’s amazing!

Dannah: Love it! You know, you’re describing something that I think is so beautiful in the Body of Christ, in humanity, our desire to help. Several years ago when I was battling through how to minister to someone who had a physical ailment, I came across 1 Corinthians 12:4, 7, and 9. I want to read this.

I’ve shared it with you before, but I think it’s just precious! It says,

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit . . . To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good . . . to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit . . .” (“Gifts” there is plural . . . “gifts” of healing).

And I think it is an inter-relational gift, or inter-relationship of gifts when we minister to someone in healing. There is the act of faith and praying for healing, that the Lord would bring it if He wills. I continue to pray that for you.

There is mercy, what we were just talking about. There is weeping and just sitting with someone and saying, “It really stinks that you hurt so badly!” That’s mercy. And you were just describing “helps,” people putting groceries on your doorstep, bringing over a big pot of chicken noodle soup, or coming and cleaning the house for someone who just can’t get around.

Oh, I just felt the conviction of the Spirit! My friend with no knees is going to need that help!

Colleen: Aww, I love that, so practical!’

Dannah: I’m going to need some girlfriends to help me, though, because I don’t do that by myself. But I think we mistake healing as just a miraculous thing that happens. Sometimes the gifts of healing require us to walk people through the suffering with the help and support of the Body of Christ. That’s a beauty and a miracle, too!

Colleen: Yes! I love how you mention the gifts, plural. I just love that! I should add to what I said. When I know someone loves us, it’s really hard for them to go wrong, because we need each person in our lives. 

God has given us extraordinary people. He’s given us an amazing community! And each one brings a different, beautiful gift. So, I love that you highlight that, because it is so true!

Dannah: So maybe there’s somebody that really likes cleaning, that could clean for my friend. I just need to prompt them. I’ll be the finder-of-the-cleaner!

Colleen: Yes, you find them! 

Dannah: You know, at the same time, I guess, when I talk about gifts of healing, I feel like I’m on a tightrope when I talk about that, because I want to remain faithful to pray in faith that there can be faith.

So, as you’ve wrestled through suffering in your own battle with cancer, are you still praying that the Lord might heal you, or is there a point where that stops? Where do you go in the Scriptures to answer that question?

Colleen: Well, it’s funny. Ezekiel 16 comes to mind, which is so interesting. It’s the parable of God’s adulterous wife, Israel. Since I was in my early twenties I have loved this chapter. The first part, or I should say several verses in, talks about how God healed—rescued—His people, His wife. It says:

“I passed by you and saw you thrashing around in your blood, and I said to you as you lay in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you as you lay in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you thrive like plants of the field. You grew up and matured and became very beautiful. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, but you were stark naked.

“Then I passed by you and saw you, and you were indeed at the age for love. So I spread the edge of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I pledged myself to you . . . and [then] you became mine.” (Eze. 16:6–8)

I’m going to sum up. The passage talks about how He washed me with water, rinsed off the blood, anointed me with oil. I’m using this for me, because this is a picture of salvation.

“I clothed you in embroidered cloth and provided you with fine leather sandals. I also wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk . . . adorned you with jewelry . . .” (vv. 10–11)

“You [were] beautiful!”—beautiful crown on your head, it goes on and on. And at the end it says that your beauty “was perfect through my splendor,” says the Lord. And this idea that God has rescued me from this horrendous death sentence! I was like a baby thrown out in my afterbirth and blood, and He walked by and saw me and said, “Live!”

And so, I have been healed in the ultimate sense. I have been rescued from that death sentence of sin! And so, that was a long answer to give context for, with this second and terminal diagnosis, I have not felt freedom to ask for a miracle. I’m so grateful that others have. It’s strange. I’ve just had a restraint from the Spirit to not pray for a miracle, but to pray for more time.

Dannah: Which in itself is a bit of a miracle.

Colleen: And that’s what I’ve told people. I love that you said that. Yes, it is a miracle already that I am here more than a year-and-a-half after that terminal diagnosis!

Dannah: Have you outlived what they originally said you might have?

Colleen: Well, the first thing that the first doctor told me, no. I had a few years. But that quickly changed with how fast the cancer was overtaking. It was faster than anyone thought. And then, for about a year I was living in terms of months in my head, like, “I don’t know if I’m going to see a few months from now.” At this point, who knows anymore?

Dannah: So it is a miracle that I am looking at you! It is a gift from the Lord.

Colleen: It is. It really is! It’s such a gift!

Dannah: That passage that you talked about a moment ago from Ezekiel chapter 16 . . . Experiencing that spiritual rescue, that spiritual miracle, that spiritual healing that overcomes death, we don’t overcome physical death. But there is an eternal-ness to our souls because He has come and rescued us. How do you possibly walk through the suffering that you are walking through right now without that hope!?

Colleen: I have no idea, Dannah. I have thought of this so many times. I don’t know how people face this without the nearness and goodness of Jesus and His words that transform the worst days into beauty! I don’t know how. I don’t know. It boggles my mind when I think about that.

Dannah: Well, let’s think about this: there is probably someone listening who, that is their story. They’re walking through cancer, estrangement from a spouse, financial disaster, chronic pain—something without Jesus. When you just talked about Ezekiel, it almost sounded like a different language to them. They didn’t know what you were saying.

I wonder if you could just speak to that woman, that man, right now. What would you tell them is the most important thing they can do today?

Colleen: I love that Jesus is standing, waiting for them. He’s just open arms. He loves you so much that He came. He forced His perfect God-ness into flesh and bone so that He could take your finite-ness, your frailty, your sin, that guilty conscience that plagues us apart from Jesus.

He took it in His body so when we feel pain, when we have cancer, when our hearts fail emotionally, any frailty about us, anything that we’ve done wrong, the ways we’ve hurt people and messed up our lives . . . He took all of that on His body and took it to the cross and shed His blood and suffered greatly, greatly, greatly beyond what we can imagine.

He took all of our sin and shame and awfulness on His body at the same time. And He became that sacrifice to pay. Sin requires death, that’s the penalty of sin—death. And He took that death on Himself, and then rose from the grave so that we could have life!

And so, wherever you are at right now in your suffering . . . Maybe you’ve just messed up your life big time. He is just so eager to love on you and to take that burden off of you that you would have to bear, suffering by yourself in sin by yourself.

He’s got everything, everything that we need and want in Himself!

Dannah: And the Bible says that if you profess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, that’s where you start. You just say, “Oh! There’s something in my heart right now that. This is all making sense.”

And you might say, “But I don’t understand that Ezekiel guy,” or “I didn’t get the word you used a few minutes ago,” or whatever. Don’t start there. Start with this: there’s a sense in your heart that you can’t walk through this suffering without Him, and so you just profess with your mouth that Jesus is going to be in charge of this, that He’s going to be the Lord of your life, of this suffering, of your story.

In fact, I wonder, Colleen, would you just pray over the one whose heart is thumping out of their chest right now and thinking, Oh yeah, that’s me?

Colleen: Yes. Jesus, I have people on my heart right now who connect me to the one listening, that I have prayed for so long that they would have the gift of faith to believe You, that You are their salvation. You are their Savior. You’re the One who rescues us from our sins. So, I pray that, right now, that this dear one would believe; that You would give light in the darkness; that You would give them the light of the knowledge of You, and that You would allow them to open their hearts and their minds to the reality of You. I pray that they would trust You; that they would experience Your love.

Right now, God, reveal Your love for them, and let Your truth that You show in Your Word, in the Bible, that that truth would grab them, compel them; that they’d believe it! Reveal that You have taken care of this inordinate burden of sin that we cannot bear on our own and that will lead to forever-death. But You have forever-life! Let them believe that, let them experience You right now! In your precious name we pray, amen.

Nancy: Amen! That’s my friend Colleen Chao. Colleen explained why she can have such peace and hope even as she’s facing death. Do you have that same hope? Have you found the One who can give you the forever-life that Colleen referred to in her prayer?

If you aren’t sure or you want to learn more, go to the transcript of today’s program at We have a link there that will explain more about what it means to put your trust in Christ.

We’ve heard how Coleen hasn’t given up on living, even as she faces the end of life here on earth. Her physical activities look way different than they did when she was healthy, but she’s continuing to serve others through her writing and her zeal for Christ. 

One way Colleen decided to serve was by becoming a Revive Partner. This ministry has had such an impact in her life that she wants to help others hear the same messages that have blessed her and her family. In fact, how about we let Colleen tell us what Revive Our Hearts has meant to her?

Colleen: Revive Our Hearts has been such a blessing to me personally. I have a short list of resources I go to for encouragement‚ I’m probably a little picky! But Revive Our Hearts is one of them!

It’s such a neat thing to have just a myriad of resources through this ministry—blogs and videos and articles and conferences. It’s been such a sweet gift to me personally, and then one that I’ve passed along to others.

I remember, I probably was in my early twenties (maybe late teens) when my mom gave me a book by Nancy. It was the first introduction. I think it was on having a quiet time. I can’t remember the title of the book now.

But ever since then, in different seasons of life, it’s just amazing the longevity, the faithful and beautiful ministry, that continues to care for me and for my circle—my people. I know that it will care for you.

The fact each of us walks through hard things, each of us walks through suffering, and to know that there’s a herd of women that surround us and that walk with us and that testify to God’s faithfulness, these stories are a gift. I’m so blessed that ROH passes this along to all of us and that we get to all be part of this together.

Dannah: And we’re so blessed to have Colleen as a Revive Partner. You can hear more from her coming up on our weekend program—Revive Our Hearts Weekend. It’s heard on many of our same stations, or you can check out the podcast, too. 

If Revive Our Hearts has ministered to you, would you consider becoming a Revive Partner? All that means is that you commit to pray for us, spread the word about Revive Our Hearts, and support us with at least $30 a month.

We’re so grateful for your willingness to partner with us in reaching women with the freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness of Christ. When you sign up today to become a Revive Partner, well, we’ll send you a bundle of goodies! It includes Nancy’s Heaven Rules book and calendar, several booklets, Scripture memory cards, and a Bible study on Esther.

And that’s just our welcome to you, because we’ll keep sending you resources! So, would you ask God if He would want you to become a Revive Partner? If you’d like to sign up, visit, or call us at 1-800-569-5959. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Next week, Nancy will start a series on the life of Enoch, Noah’s great-grandfather. She’ll explain how Enoch shows us how to have a close relationship with God even in the midst of an evil world! Please be back for Revive Our Hearts. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to show you how suffering can bring greater freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

All Scripture was taken from the CSB.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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