Did you know that the word “comfort” is derived from a Greek word that means “to come alongside and encourage?” God says, “Go comfort my People” and asks us to walk alongside someone during their times of pain.
But that’s not always easy, is it? Nicholas Walterstorff, a well-known theologian and author of Lament of a Son, has written, “Let’s face it, grief is just so messy. We want the grieving person to ‘get over it,’ or ‘be done with it.’ So we are often tempted to rush in with a quick fix.”
For example, when my wonderful mother died at the age of 92, someone at the funeral home said, “How wonderful, she’s out of her misery, and she is with the Lord!” Now both of those statements were true. I knew that my mom was in a better place, and that she was no longer suffering. But right then I was consumed by grief. Right then, I needed to express my sorrow, my grief.
Looking back at this situation, I understand that my friend was trying to “make” me feel better. But at that moment, I didn’t need a platitude or a cliché. It would have been much more helpful if my friend would have said, “I am so sorry. I know how close you were to your mom. You must feel very lonely and sad.” Those comments would have given me a chance to express, if I wished, some of my feelings, and I would have felt that the person understood and cared about me.
So when you are with someone who is suffering remember that you don’t have to remove their pain, you only have to walk alongside them and provide comfort. Invite them to express their feelings and thoughts. That will be a gift.