And Give Lots of Hugs
Romans 12:15 NLT
Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
Today, our country mourns. We will forever mourn this day. Even though amazing stories have been told about courage and strength, it is appropriately a day for mourning because of the massive destruction and loss of life. It doesn’t mean we don’t move forward (easier for some than others). It means that it would be inappropriate for those who didn’t lose anyone to be insensitive to those who did.
Comforting people who are hurting requires this type of “funeral etiquette.” A lot of times well meaning Believers will unpack 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 when they go to comfort someone. This passage of scripture is for personal instruction not for offering comfort. It is inappropriate and kind of psychotic to tell someone who has just lost everything: Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
A hurting person needs our help, they need us to hold their hand, they need us to pray for them because all they can do is cry. Real comfort comes when we comfort someone with the comfort we ourselves have received. (See 2 Corinthians 1:3-4) And the comfort we receive comes from God. HE is the one who comforts. He mysteriously and miraculously replaces desperate sadness with unexplainable peace. We can’t physically do that for anyone.
What we can do physically is hold a hand, give a hug, offer support, food, care & love and agree with them that what they are going through is awful. Loving, physical, human presence will match what we pray for and believe God will do in the hearts of desperately sad people. Telling someone to “buck up” because God is in control is no comfort, telling someone to rejoice when they are actually sad is mentally unstable, and telling someone that God allowed it to happen is downright mean.
If I’m really concerned with someone moving forward from sorrow, I must give them something to look forward to...
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem... He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. (Isaiah 40:1-2&11)
Bad and sad things happen because we have a real and active Enemy. God is not our enemy. God comforts. God helps. God resolves. God heals. It doesn’t matter if he does it this side of heaven or the other; it is what we look forward to, and it is how we offer comfort: It won’t always be like this. You are close to God’s heart, and he will gently lead you. (and give lots of hugs)
You know. Give me encouraging words for my sad friends. Help my comfort come from truths about you and your character. There are no handy tips, and no one needs a pep talk. We just need you. Thank you for your peace that is so deep that it can’t even be expressed. Thank you that you offer this to all who come to you for comfort and relief. Let me be faithful to gently point them to you in Jesus’ name, amen.