There are times as a follower of Christ when opportunities come to comfort those in need. These times are not reserved for pastors. Every Christ follower will experience these moments.
There appears to be great fear when these times come. Most people say "I don't know what to say," and therefore do their best to avoid those situations.
However, you won't be able to avoid those situations forever. At some point a close friend or relative will be experiencing great pain or loss. It's during these moments, God chooses to use you to be his ambassador and conduit for comfort and grace.
This past week people in our fellowship have been grieving the loss of loved ones. Spouses, children, parents and friends have died or are in critical condition. The church gathers, but what do you do?
It's good to have a plan, but the fact of the matter is that in those times where loved ones are experiencing grief and pain, God will give you that which is needed to be His hands and feet. I like what one of our senior adult ladies told me a few years ago, "We need to be 'Jesus with skin on' for each other during these times."
What an honor that God would choose you to bring comfort during times of need.
There are, however, some things you shouldn't do. These are just some that come to mind:
- Don't say "I know what you're going through" unless you have gone through the exact same thing, and I mean EXACTLY the same situation.
- Don't say "You'll get over it."
- Don't quote Romans 8:28 when the wound is open. We know all things work for good to those who love the Lord, but in the midst of the pain, sometimes this quote - though said in love - is not received well.
- Don't talk about something you've gone through that you think relates. Your story will most likely, in the immediacy of the painful event, not bring comfort. Possibly later, so hold onto the story and share as God leads.
- Don't say "It was just her time."
- Don't say "Don't cry."
- Don't say "God needed your loved one in heaven more than we need him here." God doesn't need anyone. This is poor theology and leads to a false understanding of God and heaven.
- Don't say "You just need to move on."
- Don't say "You'll get over this eventually."
- Don't say "She's an angel in heaven now." That's so biblically incorrect, it makes me grimace every time I hear it. People do NOT become angels.
- Don't say "God will never give you more than you can handle." Oh really, I think God always gives us more than we can handle, but even though that's the case - don't say that either.
- If young parents have lost a child, either before or after birth, don't say "You're still young. You can have more children." You can't replace a person. People are uniquely created in the image of God.
- Don't say "He's better off." Well, if the person has died and is in heaven, that's the case. It's just that this statement doesn't really comfort.
- Don't say "If there's anything I can do for you, call." You can say this only if you leave your number with the person. Most likely, they'll never call, so maybe a call to the person or a visit within a few days or weeks is best.
There's a common theme in the points above "Don't say. . ."
So often, we feel that we need to lecture or preach or offer comforting words. While being totally silent is most likely not the answer, empty words, poor theology, bad cliches and the other things listed above (and many more) are not the answer.
More than "saying" is "being." Be there. Hug your friend. Cry with your friend. Be honest with your friend.
I had a friend ask me not long ago while dealing with a trauma in her life, "Why is this happening, David?" Oh, I had some deep, biblical answers, but in truth and at that moment, my answer was "I just don't know." That's what I said. Then, we hugged. She cried. I prayed for her. I prayed aloud, in her ear, just loud enough for her to hear, not for everyone else, for God to comfort her as only He could. I said to God "We don't understand this, but we trust You. It's hard to trust You right now, so help us do this." It was honest. It was hard for my friend to trust, but she loves God. She's a disciple. She knows the Truth.
God was there. God is there still. She's still grieving and the pain comes in swells like waves in the ocean, but God is there. She knows this. She just needs reminding. Her faith is strong. She's known Jesus longer than I've been alive. She's a dear saint. She needs comfort and God is that comfort. (BTW - if you can, stop reading for just a moment and pray for her and her family please.)
There have been others surrounding her that know the Jesus we know. There are other stories just like this and God is ever present in each.
There are also those who do not know Christ. They're confused. They're angry. They need hope. In those cases, God may place you as his conduit of grace. Be ready. Trust Him.
Remember. . .
2 Corinthians 1:3-4(ESV)
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.