You cannot fix it. Loving the hurting opens us up to the temptation to see ourselves as the sufferer’s personal savior. But they do not need you—they need Christ. Comfort is about redirecting someone to seek what they need in Christ first and not in you. Comfort is not about always being there for someone; it is about reminding someone that Christ is always there for them.
“It will be all right,”
“I believe God will bring healing,”
“You’re a strong person, I know you will get through this,”
“I’ll pray you get better and that this will all come to an end”.
In my long battle with chronic pain, I’ve heard all these and more. These statements are well meaning and do contain partial truths, but they always fall short of offering any real, lasting comfort.
What we really believe shapes what we actually say, both to ourselves and to others. If we believe the wrong thing, we will say the wrong thing, and end up resorting to quasi-Christian clichés (which offer false hope) or to never having anything to say at all to those who are hurting (which offers no hope).
Paul teaches us that no matter what circumstances or company we may find ourselves in, our message of hope should confidently remain the same:
“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4 v 13-14)
Trace Paul’s logic in these verses. He believes that Christ has risen to eternal life, and so one day he will raise Paul to eternal life. So this is what he speaks of, for the sake of his listeners coming to understand and appreciate grace, and the sake of his God coming to receive the thanksgiving he so richly and infinitely deserves.
If we believe in resurrection hope, we will speak that hope into the lives of others. One of the most crucial times for us to share this truth is when we are walking alongside a brother or sister who is suffering and struggling to see this hope for themselves.
Christ’s Comfort is Better Than Commiseration
As I have endured years of physical pain, heartache, and loss, I have come to learn that nothing can replace what’s been lost, or repair what’s been broken, apart from Christ. But instead of the Lord comforting me by removing the pain and reversing the loss of my worldly hopes, he has comforted me with his presence and secure future hope. In his grace, he has not only comforted me through his word and promises but through brothers and sisters in Christ who walk this journey with me. It is out of these comforts that I can turn to someone else and offer that same comfort (2 Corinthians 1 v 3-5).
Comforting another person in their pain is not simply commiserating with them, and it may not always mean agreeing with them. It is speaking the truths of the gospel that we ourselves have found of greater value than any earthly comfort. We need to point to God’s promises while being real about the present.