The Only Way You Can Comfort Others

Yesterday I attended a funeral, to grieve for a dear friend of mine in ministry who lost his son. Anyone who ever loses someone, especially a child or close family member is so incredibly difficult and heart wrenching. The pain and depth of sorrow can be so deep that words cannot even describe it. This man’s son was in his early thirties, adding to the already existing pain of loss.

During the service, a Scripture was referenced, and I was drawn to a special truth found in the passage.

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 tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 NKJV

I am struck by a precept in that passage–we comfort those with the comfort we have received from God.

I have found that many people today act so uncomfortable when others are in times of grief. I often cringe when I hear what people say to someone who is going through a loss, grieving or severe hardship. I have witnessed what seems like the full spectrum of awkward sayings and gestures coming from people who did not know how to comfort someone.

You know why? Because they have not processed their own grief and losses with God properly. We can only comfort others out of what we have been able to work through in our own lives. It doesn’t mean that you have to have gone through what the other person went through to qualify. You just need to have processed through your own hurts, pains and losses with God. You can only give out what you have received.

Most often, Christians can say the lamest things when someone else is going through a hard time–a clear sign they haven’t worked through anything themselves.

Americans hate pain. We avoid it all costs. We self-medicate, throw ourselves into work, check out or live in denial. Many people have never properly grieved the losses they’ve experienced. Their health, relationships and emotional heatlh all become effected by it.

I’ve watched people sit and say nothing when a person grieving just needed to hear, “I’m sorry.” Sometimes its good to stay silent, but in these cases, the silence was deafening.

Others will quickly whip out their lexicon of Chrisitan cliches to releave their own awkwardness…

“Well honey God is in control.”

“Just give it to Jesus.”

“I’m praying for you. (no you’re not)”

Years ago, Melissa and I lost a baby 11 weeks into the pregnancy. I had just announced to our church that Sunday that we were expecting. This would have been our second child after Maximus. When the news came to us that we had lost the child we were so excited to see born, our hearts sunk. I went home and wept like a baby. I remember sitting on the edge of our bed, holding Missy in my arms and just saying, “I feel like I want my mommy.” For a little while, I wasn’t right emotionally. It was uncomfortable and painful.

One of the things that made it harder was the dumb things people said. I had to actually work through forgiving people who were trying to be nice, but said such ignorant things. Theories of why it happened and why God meant for this to happen; things that brought no comfort or healing, but further confusion and anguish. Sometimes people share idiotic theology regarding God to make themselves feel better to or to quickly solve life’s problems in one sentence.

But we went through the pain nonetheless. We have learned that going through the hardship cannot be avoided. And the less we engage the pain, the worse our journey of healing.

Why do we say weird things to people who are grieving? Why do we sit silent when we should at least say something? Why do we ramble on about our own traumatic experiences, when its not about us, but about them? Why do we talk and talk when we should just sit and listen?

It goes back to our own life. Have we truly grieved our own pain?

The Bible says weeping lasts for the night and joy comes in the morning. I have learned that the true joy does not come unless I have grieved. It lasts for a night. It may not be a 24 hour window, as it’s often a season. But if we allow the grief to flow, a closeness to Christ and our Father arrives in a way that is not experiences during times of celebration and happiness.

When we allow ourselves to grieve, the Holy Spirit releases comfort. That is who He is, the Comforter. That comfort brings a nurturing work of God’s love to heal and build our hearts. But if we are not open to processing through it, how can the Holy Spirit have its comforting work? How can I receive comfort if I do not position to receive comfort from God and those He places in my life? How can I then bring true comfort to others?

I want to be a vessel that helps people walk through hard times and also celebrate with them in their victories. We need to be comfortable in both arenas in life.

The only way that will happen is if we are comfortable in letting that work over the issues of our own life.