Burdens are weights. Weights crush if the burden bearer is not strong enough. Do you remember the burden that you had? Do you remember sharing it with someone else? Chances are you shared it with one of these four types of people:
1. Those who don’t understand the situation and don’t understand comfort
You have talked with these people. You share with them that huge boulder on your soul and the conversation just moves on. You may get a momentary pause, but the awkwardness prevails and you return to the importance of the weather forecast.
You probably don’t get upset at most people like this. They just don’t understand what comfort is, or why you would need it. The worst part of the whole deal is normally just that sinking feeling you have after your burden comes rolling back on you. You can get used to this.
2. Those who don’t understand the situation but understand comfort.
This second group of people are special. You share your burden with them and they feel the weight. They love you by recognizing how hard it must be for you. They have no idea of what it would be like to be experiencing what you are right now, but they know you hurt. They hurt with you.
We have had these people call and leave voicemails during very difficult times in our lives. All they could say was how sorry they were for us. There were pauses where you could tell they were choking back tears. These people recognize that your burden is heavy and wish they could carry it with you…and by wishing they could they actually are.
3. Those who understand the situation but don’t understand comfort
Sadly, I have been this person for too many hurting people. We are the ones who spend our time trying to tell you our story so you understand that we understand. In all of that we miss out on giving comfort. We like to prove to you that we can understand your pain because we have experienced something similar ourselves. In an effort to dig up our own burden for you to see, we roll yours and ours right back on top of you.
Normally I just assume that I am building rapport. I think sharing my burden with you will help you somehow. I may have been in a very similar situation as you, but it was not the same. I am not feeling it at this very moment like you are. You are feeling the full weight, I am not. I forget that though my situation may have been “worse” for various reasons, you are in the midst of it, not I.
4. Those who understand the situation and understand comfort
These people are “tenderhearted” (Eph 4:32) because they feel with you. It were as though they were suffering too. They understand what you are dealing with. Maybe they have lost a loved one too. Maybe they have spent weeks in the hospital too. Maybe they have felt the sting of unexpected loss. Because they have been there, and because they understand comfort, they let the weight of your burden rest on them for a while.
These people seldom dig up their burden to show you. And because they don’t, you may believe they are in the second category. But their silence, understanding, and reassurance show that they understand comfort, and they understand enough of your situation to know what to do, give comfort.
We recently experienced this. They had visited in the hospital, prayed, cried, and reassured. It was only several days later that I realized that this individual had experienced something so similar to what I was in the midst of. When that realization hit I thanked God for sending true comforters.
Would you add any categories? Have you seen these in your own lives? Leave a comment.
Later I would like to address 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, and a possible way to give comfort by sharing your personal experiences.
“George Buttrick… was [from 1927 to 1954] pastor of the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York. One week he had been off on a speaking engagement and was flying back to New York City. On the plane he had a pad and a pencil and he was making some notes for next Sunday’s sermon. The man seated next to him was eyeing him with curiosity. Finally, the curiosity got the best of him, and so he said to Buttrick, ‘I hate to disturb you—you’re obviously working hard on something—but what in the world are you working on?’ “‘Oh, I’m a Presbyterian minister,’ said Buttrick. ‘I’m working on my sermon for Sunday.’ “‘Oh, religion,’ said the man. ‘I don’t like to get all caught up in the in’s and out’s and complexities of religion. I like to keep it simple. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule, that’s my religion.’ “‘I see,’ said Buttrick. ‘And what do you do?’ “‘I’m an astronomer. I teach at the university.’ “‘Oh, yes,’ said Buttrick. ‘Astronomy—I don’t like to get all caught up in the in’s and out’s and complexities of astronomy. Twinkle, twinkle little star, that’s my astronomy.’” Quoted from Bill Turpie in Dever, Mark; Graeme Goldsworthy (2006-04-10). The Message of The Old Testament (p. 940). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.
With the rise in popularity of a book which hasn’t even been published yet, I thought I would create a plan on how to eviscerate any heresy which may or may not be found in Rob Bell’s book (or any other book for that matter). Action plan: 1. All believers who reject the teaching of his book must tweet small portions as soon as it is released. 2. All believers who reject the teaching of his book must post them as their Facebook status as soon as it is released.
Planned Outcome: Pretty soon people will relegate his message to a small corner of the mind which can only respond to the written message by clicking a “like” or “retweet” button. It will enjoy a quick death along with all the other foolish nonsense which gets tossed up there.
During the past two runs I listened to a theological debate on eschatology. I really enjoyed it, although the second hour got pretty heated. I may be different, but I really enjoy listening to theological debates where people get spirited. Disagreements are not intrinsically wrong – they are necessary! How is one ever supposed to grow unless they are challenged on their beliefs? If they are right, they will learn how to defend that. If they are wrong, they will hopefully learn where to change. At the end the participants were honest about their love for the truth and their love for each other, which was very encouraging. This is not only true for eschatology, but for every area of our life. We must be willing to challenge others and be challenged by others.