Many people find their way to God, or come to know God better, during seasons of difficulty and suffering. Knowing that’s the case, it’s important that we feel equipped and able to help those who are going through hard times.
This was brought home to me when a close friend’s husband died of cancer and I spent some time sitting next to her at the reception after his funeral. While there, I found myself surprised by the wide range of things said to her by family and friends. Of course, each in their own way was offering what consolation they could, and as an observer, I found I was touched by some who offered genuine love and comfort, but hurt, on her behalf, by others who offered things that were thoughtless at best and offensive at worst.
Often what those who are struggling need to know most is that they are not alone.
That experience reaffirmed in me the desire to be someone who can obey the instruction in Romans 12:15 to ‘mourn with those who mourn’. Personally, I’ve known the helpful difference made when I’ve been able to be real about my own grief and suffering with someone, and I’ve also known the damage done when my pain has been ignored or met with insincere platitudes.
That was certainly Job’s experience. When his friends came together to comfort him in his loss and suffering, they weren’t much comfort. Instead they ended up making him feel worse as he was forced to defend himself from their accusations that he was somehow responsible for what he was going through. The best thing they did for him was when they first arrived. We’re told they simply sat with him in silence for seven days (Job 2:11-13). Often what those who are struggling need to know most is that they are not alone; they need to know their pain is seen and that others care about what they’re going through. That’s what Job’s friends did for him at first. The problems began when they started talking to him.
What I’ve come to realise over 25 years of church ministry, from my own difficult life experiences, but most importantly, from reading the Bible, is that as Christ followers, we should be at the forefront of those most able to come alongside others who are hurting and offer them a safe place of acceptance and comfort. Our God, after all, is the answer to every heart’s cry. We need to know that for ourselves and be confident to share it with others.
As Christ followers, we should be at the forefront of those most able to come alongside others who are hurting and offer them a safe place of acceptance and comfort.
Our Heavenly Father knows our every need and loves us unconditionally. Not only that, He also knows the number of hairs on our head (Luke 12:7).
Jesus lived as one of us. One of the prophecies about Him was that He would ‘bind up the broken-hearted’ (Isaiah 61:1). He himself suffered to defeat sin’s curse in a way we will never be able to understand but in a way that means He understands our suffering. The Holy Spirit, our comforter and guide, lives in us, bringing his healing as we allow him to work in our lives.
With all that going for us, when it comes to sharing our faith, the hope we have, with those who are hurting and don’t yet know Christ, we can be confident we have what they need, and with God’s help, they’ll be glad to have spent time with us. If we love people, as Jesus did, we’ll be able to bring His comfort and reassurance by telling them there is a God who understands their pain and wants to meet them there to help them. If we are able to follow that up by praying sensitively for them, asking the Holy Spirit to come and bring his peace and hope, beautiful things can and will happen. Their circumstances won’t necessarily change, but getting a taste of the peace of God will bring them great comfort and open them up to learn more about him.
Many people find their way to God in seasons of difficultly and suffering. Let’s commit to being those who receive God’s grace and comfort for ourselves so that we can be those who offer it to others.