Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV)
I am writing this as a service announcement for all who have ever lost someone they loved, faced a serious illness, or any other major, life changing situation. Please don’t say ‘it’.
There are too many ‘its’ to list . . . and I know I would offend a few people if I tried, but this just needs to be said. The verse in Corinthians says that we are to comfort those who are in any affliction and this is a good, God breathed word . . . what needs to be explained is how we go about doing that.
I know that I am so guilty of ‘foot in mouth disease’ myself. Why, just a few weeks ago, I was at the celebration of life for a friend’s ex-husband (but best friend) and I heard myself say, ‘Thank the Lord he came to know Christ through his illness and that you’ll see him again one day’. Now this is true! And it does bring comfort – eventually – but in the moment of deep grief . . . no. I am fortunate that this friend is a straight-shooter and told me just that. Yes, she knows that to be true, but right now she misses him and the ache is unbearable. She just needed someone to silently hold her hand, give her a hug, and a listening ear. Isn’t that how the Lord comforts us?
So here’s what I’m trying to say. We need to come alongside people in their grief and allow them to experience their fears, loss, and even a bit of well-expressed anger when necessary. When we say ‘God’s got you’ and ‘trust in Him’ and a few other good, well-meaning uplifting expressions, those words can seem to say to someone who is hurting that if they are struggling with fear, doubt or anger that they are somehow a loser Christian who lacks faith. That is just adding insult to injury!
Which is why, I believe, the Lord specifically reminds us that we have needed comfort in our pasts. And now we are to give comfort – not through knee-jerk Christian clichés - but by coming alongside those who are hurting. We are to remember how we felt and what truly brought us comfort. And if we have not experienced such pain in our own lives, to trust those who have been there . . . love is often best expressed without words.
Father, forgive us for hurting those who are already suffering. Help us to know the right words and deeds that are needed and give us the discernment to be Your hands and feet when we are giving comfort to others. Amen!
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