Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God(2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Did you hear what Paul was saying in those two short verses? I hope so, because you are going to need to hang on to it. Life drags us through different seasons — some of them good, and some of them bad; and we are all going to need help or to be ready to help in the darker times.
One of my hardest seasons came on a Sunday night many years ago. I was speaking when one of our Shepherds hurriedly started up the church aisle, obviously bringing some kind of urgent message. The closer he came to the front of the sanctuary, the more his face showed great agony. About six rows from the front, he could hold his words no longer. In a spray of grief from a deep well of sorrow, he told the church that one of our family's 11-year-old boy had been hit by a car as he rode his bicycle to church. The little boy died before we could get to the hospital. The loss was gut-wrenching, hard to accept, and devastating to all of us ... especially this boy's parents.
Words cannot describe the pain parents have in such seasons. And while many of us could offer these parents comfort because of our own recent grief, those whose words and presence blessed this grief-stricken family most were those who had been there — folks who had survived the deep wounds of losing a child and had somehow found a way to go on with their lives.
Remember how Paul described this principle: Our God is "the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God" The truth of this is as undeniable in real life as it sounds in Scripture.
Those who have "been there," and that God has carried through the dark night of the soul, bring something to us when we find ourselves in our own "time to mourn." Because God's strength has carried them, their wounds validate ...
- The anguish of our hurt:
Not with platitudes, pity looks, or simplistic explanation, but the assurance that here is someone who knows and cares about our hurt.
- The uniqueness of our pain:
We know their wound is like our own, but they recognize that our wound is as unique as the person we have lost.
- The strength within our spirits:
They show us that they are making it through this horror with the help of God and His Spirit, so we can believe we will make it, too, and we do not have to do it alone.
The incredible blessing of being in God's community, His family of grace in the midst of our grief, is that we do not have to walk our loneliest trails of despair alone. When we walk through "the valley of the shadow of death" we will not have to do it alone. Not only is God with us, but God makes Himself available through a fellow traveler who has real skin and a wounded heart of grace. These brothers and sisters in Christ walk with us, support us, and remind us that we are not alone. They are there for every season so that during our time of mourning we are not alone and when we finally reach that time to dance, we have soul-level friends who will share our joy.
My prayer for you is this:
If you find yourself in the deep well of sorrow and grief...
May God bring the right folks to walk alongside you and share your journey till you are where you can help other wounded travelers on their journey.
May this be so by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter Jesus sent to comfort, sustain, and equip us. In the name of Jesus, who suffered so we know we never have to suffer alone. Amen.
Questions to consider:
How have you experienced this principle, "we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God" in your life?
Were you on the receiving or sharing end of this comfort-giving? How did this bless your life?
Why do you think so many people say simplistic and unintended hurtful things to those in grief?
Why do we feel that we must defend God with people who have suffered great loss?
How is sitting and sharing people's grief in silence often better than opening our mouths and trying to say something?
What should we say to comfort people in their grief?
Why do we wait to DO something to help — like buy them groceries, wash their car, mow their lawn, babysit their children — those in grief, rather than just asking them what we can do to help?
If you have suffered deep loss, how did God comfort you and how did He use other people to bless you?