2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT) All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
When we see someone we love going through something hard, the temptation is to tell them how to fix it or to let them know that if they have enough faith in God, they’ll get through this. But is that really the way to comfort a friend?
According to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, we are to comfort the troubled with the same comfort we’ve received. When I think back at times when I was troubled, I don’t remember being comforted by people telling me what to do. I knew they meant well, but it only made me feel worse. It made me feel like I was a failure, and this problem was my fault. Sometimes it was my fault, but it didn’t help when other people pointed that out. Sometimes it was through no fault of my own. I was the victim, and people telling me what I needed to do made me feel defensive. I felt I needed to explain that I’d done everything right.
Another thing that didn’t comfort me is people telling me I need to trust God or have more faith. Sometimes I did have enough faith which put me in that defensive position of explaining myself again. When I didn’t have enough faith, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to. I needed help. Telling me I somehow wasn’t spiritual enough didn’t help.
So there is a wrong way to comfort the troubled. But there’s also a right way. 1 Corinthians 1 tells us what kind of comfort to give – the same comfort God gave us. We just need to figure out what that is. Here’s a few ideas.
When Elijah was hurting, God met his physical needs. He sent an angel to the wilderness to feed Elijah and make sure he got enough sleep. Sometimes the best way to comfort a friend is to meet her physical needs. If that person is going through a divorce and has to pack up and leave her home, help her pack. If somebody is grieving over the loss of a loved one and is lonely and not eating, take her some food or take her out to eat.
Romans 12:15 NKJV Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Sometimes the best way to comfort a troubled friend is to cry with her, to hug her, to love her. That’s what Jesus did when His friend Lazarus died. He comforted Lazarus’ sister, Mary, by crying with her. Sometimes words don’t mean anything. Sometimes we just need a shoulder to cry on.
God gives us peace. We aren’t capable of giving another person peace, but we can comfort her by giving her a safe place to vent. When someone is going through a tragedy, many times, her emotions will be all over the place. She needs a safe place to express her anger, hurt, despair, and other negative emotions without filters and without worrying about judgement. You can provide that by giving a listening ear without advise.
One of the most important ways we can comfort our friend is to pray for her. Sometimes tragedy is too great and emotions are too raw for someone to pray for herself. The best thing we can do is to pray for her and petition God in her behalf. When you pray, make sure you pray with your friend. Let her see you’re praying for her and not just saying you will. You can pray at home, but pray when you’re with her also.
How have you been comforted by others? Are you giving the same comfort to your hurting friends?