The year 2020 is finally over. What a year. This will be remembered as a year of suffering and death for generations to come.
What was the impact on your life from all of the terrible events that happen? Will we ever get back to normal? What will normal be like when we get there?
A pastor of a large church in eastern Washington was asked to conduct the funeral of a former member of the church who had moved to central Washington. As the pastor sought to comfort the widow, he used the same line that you and I may have used many times in the past when we sought to comfort someone: "I understand. " This time, however, the woman turned to the pastor and, in tears said, "You don't understand. You can't understand."
I was a young pastor, recently graduated from seminary, when my pastor invited me to ride with him and be with him throughout the events surrounding a funeral. He wanted to provide training for me in how to conduct a funeral. This was his most memorable insights for me. One that has guided me through the years whenever I seek to comfort someone going through hardship and suffering. I guess I did not learn my lesson because years later I went to the home of a man suffering from a condition that was causing him to literally bleed to death.
As I walked into the room, the man was sitting in the middle of his bed that had been moved into the living room. I had been called to the home because his condition was critical. He was bleeding and the bleeding could not be stopped.
His teenage daughter was sitting on the davenport in the living room watching him. I turned to her and asked her, "How are you doing?" Her terse response was, "How do you think I'm doing?"
Sometimes our attempts to comfort result in the opposite effect. Flippant, habitual, hackneyed statements, or questions can hurt instead of comfort. In over a half century of seeking to comfort others in the afflictions, I have come to realize that suffering is a very personal matter. It is best to indicate up front, "I really don't know what you are feeling." "Is there some way I can help bring you comfort?" It is not a time to preach. It is not a time to accuse. It is not a time to judge.
Having conducted more funerals than I can remember, most of which were for individuals unknown to me and for families that did not display the attitude of believers in Christ Jesus, I have found that my task was to briefly present the gospel during the memorial service and then simply to be there and demonstrating a genuine caring attitude.
Those of us who know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, know the One who has provided the greatest comfort through His life, death, and resurrection. No matter what crisis may arise, we have a comforter through the indwelling Holy Spirit. The best way to demonstrate this is through our own responses to pain and suffering.
Joe Kirby, of Off The Kirb Ministries, is perhaps the best motivational speaker I have come across recently. I want to thank those who forwarded the following video to me on the topic of suffering. I invite you to watch and then send it to others. The world needs the comfort he shares in this video.
Also check out the individual he references whose childhood picture I reprinted at the beginning of this article. Nick Vujicic is also a motivational speaker and uses his own life as a testimony to the joy one can experience in Christ in spite of personal hardship and suffering.