By now it is more a social requirement than meaningful encouragement; we remind our friends who have lost jobs or family members that God has good and exciting plans for them. We like to quote Romans 8:28 and assume that it indicates that God is working for my good, that my good is material, and it is coming before I really feel any loss.
These are not the ways of the God of the Bible. In Genesis, God promises Abram, a 75 year old man, that he will father a great nation. It is another 25 years before Abram's wife bears a child. He sits by as Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers, and then as he is jailed for a sexual assault he did not commit. He allows Satan to afflict Job with loss of property, family and health, and when Job questions his activity, he answers with an unbearable demolition of Job's authority to ask. He allows his own Son to suffer execution and then he commissions his most devout followers to martyrdom.
To be sure, God is good, and his plans are set in motion to redeem the world entire. But redemption is not necessarily for our present circumstances. We may suffer years of disease, unemployment, poverty, loneliness and laborious futility to no end that we ever understand. We cannot expect that God to actively provide for our wants, and we must remember that he does not always provide even for our gravest physical needs. Our joy is in God's presence and God's victory, and neither is yet totally fulfilled.
I have mostly lead an easy life. I have overcome great difficulties, but they have been tasks that I have chosen. And in my troubles, my true friends have not offered empty promises and optimism, they have sat quietly in prayer and in solidarity. I think that this should be our model of encouragement.