What does it mean to comfort others during suffering?
In the course of life you be asked questions from hurting people. Your family may tearfully ask why? Your kids may ask why does this hurt?
My plea to you is that you learn how to comfort others biblically in a way that is not cheap, cliche or full of useless platitudes.
There is few things I hate more than pat and simple answers to hard and complex questions.
I hope to offer you a model and a process.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 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. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
The Model is for personal understanding, the Process is how to comfort.
MODEL: We see God is the very source of true compassion.
Real comfort involves identity. Real comfort is found in the reality that I belong to the God who made the universe, the God who made oceans and holds me in such a way that I can never be removed. The most valuable thing in my life is God’s love a love that nothing can separate me from.
This is the real comfort we can offer people. You do not comfort people when you tell them things will work out, because that is a lie, it may not work out in this life. Everything comes and goes on this earth, the only unchanging truth is that comfort can be found in the eternal unchanging, knowable God!
Add this truth, from Paul, there would be no compassionate love on this planet if it were not for God. This means that God’s people should be compassion givers, if we are partakers in His divine nature we should be pouring compassions on others.
We cry with those who cry, and mourn with those in mourning because we represent the One who is compassion. We did not receive comfort from God to keep it to ourselves, but we are made to share it with others.
Suffering does not belong to us but to God
We are called to suffer so we can experience God’s comfort (1 Peter 4:12-13). Suffering is not an indication of God failing, but that it is part of His plan. This is a hard truth, a truth that is not for use immediately in a time of crisis, but later as the suffering is being processed.
Our culture has learned how to use suffering as power. Children show this clearly. When my children fall or get hit somehow they typically don’t cry right away, they look for sympathy, if an adult is not around they go find one and then cry and carry on about their suffering.
When suffering the temptation is to adopt it as belonging to us. We use it to get attention from others. However, if we view suffering as belonging to God and it is an instrument in His hands for a purpose in us and others we can put Christ first. Without suffering we do not have the opportunity to put Christ first. I do not say these things lightly, I am a man acquainted with loss, with pain and sorrow.
The first 10 years of my adult life was spent at war. 45 months of deployed time to Iraq ranging from 2004-2012 I lost friends, my dad died of cancer, I was divorced suffered depression, was suicidal for a good portion of that time. I faced a change in vocation, medical retirement from the Army among other things. All these were used by God to shape me and provide me comfort that is incomparable. So I don’t say this lightly, our suffering belong to the Lord God.
We bring all this pain, the full range of suffering to Him. We are to go to the source of comfort, Jesus. We take that comfort with us and give it to others because it does not belong to us.
Paul starts the process in vs 8 of 2 Cor 1. Paul writes about God in action.
Sharing how God worked in your story is the most powerful and personal method to offer comfort. Our story takes the truth of God and places it in the struggles of real life.
How you tell your story matters.
-Tell your story in a way that is relatable to the person suffering. The goal is to show the person suffering that you are like that person. Your story needs to include (1) the difficult situation, (2) how you struggled in it, and (3) how God helped you.
The hero in your story should be God, be open about your own failings, God’s grace should be the highlight in the story. Expose your own sin so they can see God’s work in that time.
I have to share elements of my story to many different groups. I have to be wise and purposeful in what “gory” details I share. Be aware of your audience when retelling your story. It must be told with humility and admitting of your need for grace.
The point of the story should be to focus on God and have them embrace the truth that the only source of comfort. Pain has a tendency to blind us from seeing and communicating with God.
Giving hope is more than convincing people that things will get better. Giving hope means bringing them to Jesus and the source of all comfort. Telling your story can help point people to the light that will pierce their darkness.
The majority of the message was Paul David Tripp’s book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. (I highly recommend it for anyone looking to help other people change while seeking to change yourself).