So let's just say that you are out amongst friends, and someone announces that their father will be undergoing open heart surgery or their sister-in-law has terminal cancer. Everyone else in the group says the usual "I will keep you in my prayers!" or "I'll have to add you to our prayer list at church." or "My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family." And I go: "Gee, I hope everything turns out okay. I'll be thinking of you."  It always seems to fall flat. 

 

I'd love to hear how others handle these type of situations. All suggestions are greatly appreciated.

 

 

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Exactly damian!
It seems as if I often wind up being over-emphatic with my offers to help... to show that atheists aren't monsters, I suppose. "Call me for absolutely anything... really. I mean it.... A twenty mile drive to wash dishes for you wouldn't be too much; honest." They never do. Then I don't know if it's because of my atheism or because they would have called someone else nearer or more familiar instead, anyway. =/
LOL- I am grateful for all of the above suggestions. Yes, I think an offer of sincere help and simple gestures of kindness (like a hug) are much, much more meaningful than the empty "I'll pray for you.", which is basically an auto pilot response anyway. Had to laugh at your offer to drive 20 miles to help do the dishes! I AM learning to bite my tongue and not offer to do something for someone that would put me out too much.
This is what happened when I was asked to pray for some one...  I said "Well, I don't pray but I will keep them in my thoughts."  Some months later, the same person comes around work and addresses our group like this..."Hey you guys, well, not YOU because you don't pray...so and so's little boy needs a lot of prayer and we are having a prayer meeting.....blah, blah"  and she wouldn't even look at me the rest of the day.  I made a point to tell her that although I do not share her power in prayer philosophy, I was concerned for the family, wished them well,  and would appreciate being left in the loop for updates.  It amazes me how callous and inconsiderate people can be and their assumptions that you don't care or are incapable of caring if you don't share their beliefs.  I think a simple "I'll keep them in my thoughts" or "I hope it all turns out OK for them" is more than enough.

The problem is that they believe prayer really works, and instead of seeing a refusal to pray as a refusal to be disingenuous, they see a refusal to pray as a refusal to help out.  And if they believe it really helps, then it doesn't matter that you think it doesn't; as far as they're concerned, it does help, and you're just refusing to pitch in and do your part.  It's hard to know what to say to someone who sees things that way.  "Prayer doesn't work and therefore I'm not going to help" won't cut it.  All you can do is explain your position, and if they hold it against you, too bad.  (I suppose it's even possible that they'll see an offer to help in other ways as a way of saying, "I won't *really* help [i.e., by praying], but I'll offer you this trivial everyday help that won't help the sick person one iota instead.") 

Sometimes there just seems to be no good way of dealing with people whose worldviews differ significantly from your own--even though yours is the rational one and theirs isn't.

I usually tell them that I hope everything turns out ok or that things go well.  If they get pissed, so be it.
If it's someone that's close to me, I usually offer to help in some way, generally by asking if I can prepare meals for the freezer. Food is of universal comfort (and cooking is what I do for a living, so I can't help myself). If it's someone I don't know that well, I usually say something like "I'm so sorry, that really sucks. I hope he/she has a quick recovery."

 

I would comment that I do know of people who underwent the procedure and saw immediate positive results. I'd emphasize the fact that while the procedure is very invasive, it is very common and routine for cardiologists. You might also mention that people like Larry King , Regis Philbin underwentthe procedure at advanced ages and did well.

 

This is your chance to put in a plug for science without bashing or referencing imaginary friends.

 

Good luck 

Perhaps "If you need anything in this troubling time, I'll be more than glad to help."

There are plenty of ways to give an emotion-filled,honest statement without referring to empty nothings. "I'll pray for you" basically equals "Oh, that sucks." At least you can offer actual help :]

Hi, It's been a while. I've been a stranger to this site but the question is interesting so I'll give my opinion:

One thing that I always mention is that our medical advances have been superb and that the best of the best will be partnering to bring you/your loved one through safely. This gives real hope that is not a faith based delusion nor is it based on wishful thinking.

You could also offer to be of assistance, not by saying " If I can do anything to help" which is fine but unimaginative. Offer to do something concrete that will ease their burden, even if it is an ear to rant to.

Hope all is well with you!  

I like your idea of mentioning science and medical advances.

Your thoughts are as good as anyone's, Gina. I see no reproach on saying "I hope everything turns out OK." It's an honest statement with no pretense.

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