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).
Right around the time of our move this spring, I received a free copy of Hope When It Hurts, by Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton. The beautifully bound book was very encouraging and helpful and is on my books-to-share list now. The following selection has been on my heart this week as I seek to give the right kind of support and comfort a loved one going through a very hard trial which I can't change or fix and which will last a lifetime, unless the Lord miraculously removes it. May these thoughts edify you as well.
"Comforting another person in their pain is not simply commiserating with them, and it may not always mean agreeing with them. It is speaking the truths of the gospel that we ourselves have found of greater value than any earthly comfort. We need to point to God's promises while being real about the present. Instead of telling them it will be alright and life will get easier (you don't know that), we can comfort them with the truth that not a second of their pain will be wasted, and that when Christ returns, there will not be one more second of pain or heartache (you can know that!).
"Although we may not be able to make sense of what someone else is going through, Christ promises that as they choose to trust him (even if their faith is hanging by a thread), he will faithfully use those trials to accomplish his good and loving purposes in their life and the lives of those around them. We may not be able to offer answers or temporary solutions that ease their pain, but we can bring the comfort of Christ and the eternal value of suffering with him....
"You cannot fix it. Loving the hurting opens us up to the temptation to see ourselves as the sufferer's personal savior. But they do not need you--they need Christ. Comfort is about redirecting someone to seek what they need in Christ first and not in you. Comfort is not about always being there for someone; it is about reminding someone that Christ is always there for them. This frees us from a burden we weren't meant to carry. It frees us to speak truth and show love but not to feel guilty about what we cannot manage or cannot solve. You are not their Savior. God is not expecting you to be--he already sent Another to do that job.
"So let's not be afraid to enter into someone else's pain and seek to speak gospel comfort to them. God's purpose in your trials may well be to qualify you to help another to cling to their Savior in their trials" (Hope When It Hurts, 127-129).