Soothing the Suffering Soul with Christ’s Comfort
“Where have you been?” the mother demanded. The little girl replied, “On my way home, I met a friend who was crying because she had broken her doll.” “Oh,” said her mother, “then you stopped to help her fix the doll?” “Oh, no,” replied the little girl, “I stopped to help her cry.”
Hurt is inevitable. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble,” (John 16:33). His statement wasn’t a threat, just a fact of life. It’s not a matter of if we’re going to be hurt, but rather when we will be hurt and more importantly, what are we going to do about it?
Hurt can come from many sources: circumstances (illness, accidents); family members, friends, or enemies. Sometimes those closest to us can hurt us more frequently and more deeply than others can. This is because we are around them more often, and our expectation level is higher towards those we love.
What does hurt sound like?
I was disappointed, I was embarrassed, I was offended, I felt betrayed, I was frustrated, I felt abandoned, I felt sad.. Regardless of the source of hurt, the form the hurt takes, and the size of the hurt, the antidote is still the same. Comfort is the only antidote for hurt.
Jesus understood emotional pain. He was rejected in his hometown (Mark 6:2-4). He was called demon-possessed by the Pharisees (John 10:20). Christ was rejected by his family (Mark 3:20-21) and insulted by His disciples (Matthew 26:6-9). At the Last Supper, Jesus was disappointed in Philip (John 14: 6-9). Facing his own death, Peter, James and John slept instead of coming alongside their Master (Mark 14:32-40). The Savior was humiliated on the cross (John 19:23), and He was mocked (Luke 23:36) and cursed (Luke 23:36). He was even forsaken by His Heavenly Father (Mark 15:33-34).
As we enter into the sufferings of Jesus, we become more compassionate people. You can express comfort in many ways. Enter the physical world of the person. Sit with them just like Jesus sat in the sand with the adulterous woman who faced certain death by stoning. Enter the emotional world of the hurting person, just as Christ did at the grave of Lazarus, His friend. He cried not because Lazarus was dead, because He knew He would raise His friend from death. He wept for the grief of Mary and Martha.
If you can’t discern exactly what your suffering loved one is feeling, ask questions. Help them get to the root of their pain and then begin to comfort them. Empathy and sympathy are not the same thing. Sympathy is simply identifying someone’s emotional state. Empathy involves not only identifying a person’s feelings but ENTERING INTO his or her emotions. An empathetic friend is sad when his or her loved one is sad.
Listen more and talk less. The one who has been hurt should do most of the talking, and the comforter should simply listen. Expressing pain in a safe environment can help a wounded one to identify and process the source of suffering.
Offer words of comfort, accompanied by gentle affection. Don’t make comfort complicated. If we use too many words, we will move to analysis and other forms of rational expression. A hurting person may need advice, but not at that moment.
Use words like these:
“I’m really sorry that you are hurting.”
“It hurts me that you’re hurting because I love you and care for you.”
“It saddens me that you felt (embarrassed, rejected, belittled). I know that must have hurt you. My heart aches with you because I love you.”
Use a soothing voice and gentle demeanor. Use appropriate physical affection-a hug, holding hands, an arm around the shoulders will minister greatly. Mourning and comforting result in being blessed!
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our afflictions 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 1:2-4
David Ferguson and Don McMinn. Emotional Fitness: Developing a Wholesome Heart. Irving, Texas: Intimacy Press, 2003. Pp. 36-49.