– Pastor Brandon’s article from the February 2017 Newsletter
Each and every day we are bombarded with people in need. Our families, our coworkers, our neighbors – the world is filled with people who need help, and as followers of Christ, we know that God has called us to share his love. Yet, at times we are paralyzed by our own fear or uncertainty. Our hearts go out to those who are hurting, and we wonder how we can truly help. “What should I do? What should I say?” are questions that arise quite often. Material needs are somewhat easier to diagnose, and we can be prepared to share, give, and lend a helping hand when it is appropriate. However, when the problems reflect a deeper spiritual brokenness we often struggle to know how to help.
In this regard, I think Scripture gives us some insight as to how to serve one another well. In a letter to the believers at Corinth, Paul says this:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. ( 2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
The first thing we see here is that God is compassionate. He feels for us when we are hurting. The troubles of our lives do not escape the notice of God, and he was not caught unaware. He understands our distress. In fact, he was willing to enter the world, to take on flesh, to participate in the suffering of his creation. He knows what we’re going through, and he cares about us and wants to comfort us. He will help us when things get hard. We need only to take our cares to him and allow him to speak into our lives.
Now, when it comes to helping others, Paul says that we can comfort others with the comfort that we have received from God. In other words, we help others by sharing with them the help that God has given us. This kind of help goes beyond pat answers and platitudes. It runs deeper than a casual, “I’ll pray for you.” It involves us opening up and becoming vulnerable. It requires plumbing the depths of our souls and drawing upon our experiences with God. It means sharing some things that are personal, some things that we might rather keep hidden, so that God can use us to truly bring comfort to someone else.
Allow me to share an example. Before Kate was born, Hannah and I had an awful year. During that time, we lost two babies to miscarriages, and we were completely heartbroken. I had never before felt such deep pain and grief. I can’t even find the words to describe that kind of hurt. It was terrible, but I decided to press forward and seek God’s face. Over the course of a year and a half, in the midst of that sorrow, God lovingly spoke words of comfort. He took me back to Scriptures that I knew to be true and enabled me to experience those truths in a whole new way. I found peace and comfort in his presence, and it changed me.
Now I find myself serving others in a whole new way. Prior to this season of sorrow, I had done my best to support people who were grieving losses of their own. As I presided over funerals, I truly did care for families who had lost a loved one, and I longed to be a help. But now, having received comfort for my own losses, I approach things a little differently, especially from an emotional standpoint. I may not completely understand someone else’s grief, but I am at least more aware of what someone may be thinking and feeling. While no two losses are the same, I feel as if I have a glimpse, however small, of what another person might be going through. More importantly, I know that God brought comfort to me and that he just might want to bring comfort to them in a similar way. This not to say that I’ve got it all figured out or am even done grieving my own losses. I am simply saying that I want to be available if God wants to use me and my experiences to help others in similar circumstances.
This kind of thinking applies to all areas of life, grief and loss, marriage and family, finances, you name it. As I wrestle with how to really be a help to those around me, no matter the circumstances, I am learning that I don’t have to have all the answers. People and problems don’t always need to be “fixed.” Sometimes the best thing I can do is simply be with someone, to listen intently, patiently. When it does come time to speak, I try to open up about my own struggles and failures and the ways God has changed me and given me comfort and direction in life. When we do this with one another, I think we all learn in the process.
Of course, it’s not easy for me to share in this way. Sometimes, I would rather be quiet and keep it to myself. It’s personal, you know, and it’s not always pretty. However, I know that God is at work in my life, and he wants to use me to help others. If that means sharing my life and my experiences, including my weaknesses, so that others can benefit, I want to be there. I know the comfort that I have received, and I want to offer it to those around me. I pray that God would give us his heart of compassion for the hurting and the broken, and that we would step out of our own imagined comfort into the true comfort of our God. Will you join me?