In the previous posts we looked at four different types of people when it comes to comfort, and then some of the reasons why we suffer affliction – namely to experience and give comfort. What I would like to do today is share some thoughts on how to use your experience to give comfort. These are not necessarily ones I am good at, but ones that have been modeled before me recently.
1. Listen before you share
Failing to listen demonstrates that I may understand the situation, but I definitely don’t understand comfort. Often times the most comforting thing that I can do is just listen. Ask anyone who has experienced a deep loss “What did people do that comforted you the most?” I guarantee that “they just listened” will always be near the top.
When we listen we affirm the person’s struggle. We agree with them that this is hard. We help them heal without trying to fix them.
Confession time: I am awful at this. I like to fix the person’s logic, theology, memory, attitude, and possibly even their personality all in one fell swoop. While Jesus did correct Martha’s theology (John 11:25-26), he did so in the context of genuine sorrow (John 11:35).
2. Share enough but not more
When God has placed you in the position to comfort someone who is suffering, share enough, but not too much. Let’s imagine a person just broke their arm. Tell them you understand how badly it hurts, but don’t tell them you broke both arms and both legs, in multiple places, at the same time, while rescuing a drowning baby, and didn’t get any time off work. That may be true, but when you top their struggle, the hurting person just feels like an idiot.
Think back to what you were feeling and mention what hurts, fears, frustrations, etc. that you felt and then…
3. Point to God, not to you
If I am the hero of my story, I don’t understand comfort. God is the God of all comfort, not me. He was the one who comforted me, and he is the one who will comfort this fellow person.
If I point that hurting person to me instead of God, what will they have when I leave the room? Nothing. If I point them to God, instead of me, what will they have when I leave the room? More than enough.
These are some ways people have ministered to us, sharing a God-given comfort experienced in their life. We thank God for giving us people like this in the midst of struggles, and pray that we too will comfort others with the comfort God has given to us.
What other suggestions would you add?