Feb 062014 7 Responses

You Don’t Know That I’ll Be Fine

I’ve buried a lot of people who had a friend tell them, “I know you’ll be fine.”

They weren’t fine. They were dead. And their friends were liars.

They didn’t mean to be liars. They didn’t want to be liars, but they were.

It goes like this.

A friend gets diagnosed with cancer and someone says, “I know you’ll be fine.”

There is only one problem. They don’t know.

You don’t know; I don’t know; they don’t know; no one knows.

A man once came to my office to plan his funeral. He came alone. When I asked where his family was he said, “They all say I’m going to be fine. But I’m not going to be fine; I’m going to die.” He was right. (See: Never Confuse Acceptance for an Absence of Faith)

Sadly, in his family’s stubbornness, they missed some great conversations about life, death, and the unknown. And tragically, their loved one suffered alone.

There are two reasons we tell people “I know you will be fine”:

1. We can’t handle the unknown. The phrase—”I know you’ll be fine”—is actually a phrase of denial. We are pretending as though everything is okay when in reality not everything is okay. At minimum there is a threat that something might be wrong. Yet instead of living in the mystery of the unknown, we choose to live in denial. While denial can be useful at times, it is rarely helpful to others. When we live in denial, what we actually end up denying are the experiences of others. We say “I know you’ll be fine,” and what they hear is “I don’t want to talk about this” or “You shouldn’t be worried about this.” We are denying their experiences for the sake of our comfort.

2. We don’t want to take the time necessary to talk about it. Sadly, we sometimes use the phrase because we don’t want to expend the energy or effort to be involved in the lives of others.

“I know you’ll be fine so there is no need for us to talk about it.”
“I know you’ll be fine so let’s not take the time to discuss your feelings.”
“I know you’ll be fine so let’s talk about me.”

Others are worried, but we reassure them, “I know you’ll be fine.” In reality, we are reassuring ourselves that we don’t have to be involved in the situation.

The real problem with the phrase is that some believe it is the answer of faith.

They say “I know you’ll be fine because by His stripes we are healed,” all the while forgetting that the famous passage from Isaiah has very little to do with whether or not you have cancer. (See: Your Faith Does Not Heal You)

They say “I know you’ll be fine because God never desires His children to suffer,” all the while ignoring the suffering of nearly every follower of Jesus found in Bible.

They say “I know you’ll be fine because God loves you” implying that if things don’t go well maybe God’s love is a little less.

(For more on the relationship between faith, healing and the Bible, Click Here)

This phrase of denial has become a token phrase of pseudo-spirituality and it’s time for us to stop using it.

You might be fine, but you might not. The fact is that none of us know so I can’t say “I know you’ll be fine.”

So what can we say when a test is coming up, or a diagnosis comes, or a time of uncertainty is being faced?

  • “I’m sorry.”
  • “I love you.”
  • “What’s your greatest fear?”
  • “How can I pray for you?”
  • “What does that feel like?”
  • “I don’t know what to say.”
  • “What’s a good thing to say to someone in your situation?”

All of these statements are more truthful, heartfelt, and meaningful than saying, “I know you’ll be fine.” We might hope it, but we don’t know it. And saying it never leads to the outcome we desire.

What’s the best thing someone has said to you when you faced uncertainty?

7 Responses to You Don’t Know That I’ll Be Fine
  1. Becky Harris Reply

    On the flip side, how do you respond to a person who, when you try to talk to them about something you’re concerned/uncertain about responds with “it’ll turn out fine,” or “is that your profession of faith?” Minimizing concerns or turning them into a lack of faith can be difficult to swallow.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Personally, I would find someone else to talk to. If someone says “it’ll turn out fine” once then I assume they are busy or having a bad day. If it continually happens, then I find someone else to share my life with. As for “is that your profession of faith” I’ve never heard that. My response would probably be “what does that mean?” And then at some point I would remind them that my life and hope is not built on my faith. Then I would quote the old hymn The Solid Rock, “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness…”

  2. Christine Reply

    I agreed with what you said. I tend to say ‘ I hope you will be fine’ and if they are Christians ‘ I hope and pray you will be fine’.
    Most of us know we are going to die eventually but we tend to live as we will live forever here. With loved ones, we can be in denial and therefore give ourselves false hope by encouraging them to fight & be positive.
    Personally, I have a problem praying for healing for others. I tend to pray for peace & comfort for someone than for actual healing!

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Christine, thanks for the comment and for reading. I understand the hesitancy in praying for healing, but I think we can feel complete freedom in praying for it if that’s what we want. I have no problem with my child asking me for something. I think that’s the best image of what we have regarding prayer.

  3. Tim Hearn Reply

    I try to never say that, as I watch my words carefully in these cases. In the event of death, I avoid phrases like, “they are in a better place or their suffering has ended” both which maybe true but not comforting. In cases where the person has received bad news about jobs, health, etc. I try to let them know that I am available to talk, listen or just be there for whatever I can help with but Im cautious to offer help that I am not actually willing to give. “Im sorry” and “I will keep you and your family in my prayers” is a fair response. I think letting someone express their fears is a must, telling them that “you will be fine” is almost like saying, Sorry, not interested!

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