Over the years of my Christian life, I have come upon instances of grief and suffering in the body of Christ. The questions in my mind at the time were always the same. “What can I do, say, to comfort them in times of illness, even death in their family?”
How do we deal with GRIEF and SUFFERING in our midst? Our skills and know-how are not nearly as important to others as our genuine concern. The RIGHT WORDS are really simple and ordinary ones. Words like “I’m sorry,” and “I am praying for you.” My pastor’s wife received news over the Christmas holidays that her dad was in a severe accident and in ICU of the hospital in Arizona. What could I say to COMFORT her? And so far, I’ve said nothing!
So let’s learn together from God’s Word in dealing with grief, suffering, concern for people in the body of Christ on what to say when you don’t know what words to use. You will need your Bible for this topic.
TEXT: 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 NAS:
 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort;  who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.  But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer;  and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.  For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively; beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;  Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;  who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us,  you also joining us through your prayers, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed upon us through the prayers of many.
After counting the word “COMFORT” ten times in 7 verses, the theme is quite obvious. It also must have made an impact on a Preacher one Sunday morning, although I think he missed something in the translation:
A preacher was making the point that death is a natural part of the life cycle. He pointed to and quoted Genesis 3:19, saying that we came from dust and to dust we will return [*Note – I got my title for this blog from the quoted verse].
After the service,a five year old boy came running up to the preacher. All out of breath with excitement he asked, “Is it really true what you said, that we came from dust and return to dust?”
The preacher said, “That’s right my young friend. That’s what the Bible says.”
The boy replied, “Then you better get over to my house right away and look under my bed because somebody’s either comin’ or goin’!”
Death IS part of the Life Cycle…
Bad times come into life for everyone. They certainly came into the life of Paul. Take a look at Verses 8-9:
 For we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about the affliction and oppressing distress which befell us in [the province of] Asia, how we were so utterly and unbearably weighed down and crushed that we despaired even of life [itself]. (Amplified Bible)
 Indeed, we felt within ourselves that we had received the [very] sentence of death, but that was to keep us from trusting in and depending on ourselves instead of on God Who raises the dead. (Amplified Bible)
The apostle Paul uses words like affliction, distress, weighed down, crushed, despair and more. He felt it was all beyond his ability to endure. In fact, he thought he was going to DIE!
Hard Times will come…’ve
You have probably been through some hard times. I know I have, scattered throughout my life: Lost my job–several times; been fired too; two of my three children have Type I Diabetes; mother succumd to Alzheimer disease.
You might be deep in debt and facing a financial crisis as you’re reading this blog-post. Your CRISIS may be health related; dealing with a troubled and rebellious child. Or, you may be coping with the death of someone that you’ve loved deeply.
No matter what kind of SUFFERING you’re enduring, no matter what the source, be ASSURED you’re in good company. PAUL suffered; our LORD suffered and people who you see and sit by on Sunday mornings are suffering.
SUFFERING BECAUSE–We are Human.
HURT and SORROW and PAIN take many forms, that come from many sources. Paul and countless other Christians suffered and are suffering today because of their FAITH in Jesus.
Accidents happen, diseases are contracted, cancer appears, tornadoes strike, floods ravage and DEATH stalks us all. Simply because we’re HUMAN and we live in a world cursed by sin.
So often, we don’t choose the suffering. However, we can choose our response to the distress we bear. We can be bitter and angry. We can complain that God isn’t fair. We can quit, give up, trow in the towel!
Paul made his choice to use his suffering..
Probably a better way to phrase this is to say that Paul chose to be used by God through PAIN. Look more closely at Verse 6:
2 Corinthians 1:6 (Amplified Bible)
“But if we are troubled (afflicted and distressed), it is for your comfort (consolation and encouragement) and [for your] salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which works [in you] when you patiently endure the same evils (misfortunes and calamities) that we also suffer and undergo.”
If we are DISTRESSED–“troubled”, it is for your COMFORT and SALVATION. Oswald Chambers wrote:
“If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a multitude of experiences that are not meant for you at all, they are meant to make you useful in His hands.”
The “WHYS” in our troubles–
WHY IS THERE SO MUCH PAIN?
WHY DID SOMEONE DIE?
WHY DID A LOVED ONE HAVE A TERRIBLE DISEASE?
WHY AREN’T THINGS DIFFERENT?
I’ve tried over the years to answer the questions for myself; others around me who are going through so much “stuff.” I have pulled books down from storage; used Commentaries written by bible scholars; dived into word studies using my bible, and found out this:
God doesn’t offer much in the way of an answer to “WHY”. He seems more interested in “HOW’.
HOW WILL WE RESPOND? – HOW WE WILL BEHAVE?
He gives us the opportunity to allow both the good things and the terrible events we face in our lives…
To mold and shape us…
Maybe make us stronger…
Perhaps to make us wiser.
But always to CONFORMS US to fit His hand like a tool. Paul saw himself as a TOOL; an instrument to be used in God’s hand.
Using “COMFORT” as a God-given Tool:
Sometimes God used DISTRESS…sometimes He used good things to COMFORT. In all of it, His PURPOSE was to use Paul as His tool to comfort others.
God wants to COMFORT the people around you because He is the Father of COMPASSION–the God of ALL COMFORT:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of sympathy (pit and mercy) and the God [Who is the source] of every comfort (consolation and encouragement)” (Vs. 3 AMP).
SURRENDER is the Key to Responding–
In verse 9 of our text in 2 Corinthians 1, Paul says he had “learned”–‘surrendered’–to his reliance on God. In fact, the pressure, despair and the sentence to death pushed him to SURRENDER, to let go, to rely on God and not on himself.
He relied on GOD for COMFORT; he learned to trust God’s promises for his comfort as he tells us in verse 4, God comforts us in “ALL” our troubles.
So, how does God comfort us?
Would you expect God to impregnate our spirits directly from heaven courage and hope?
I suppose He might and you may have even experienced something like that. Not sure the Scripture promises it will always be that way. What I can point out to you is the experience of Paul found in 2 Corinthians 1:4:
“who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (NAS).
Paul was the conduit when God’s COMFORT came to him and he let that COMFORT flow through the lives of others. How do you suppose Paul received God’s COMFORT?
Guessing just a little, I suppose he was comforted by others who had been comforted by people who had been comforted. That’s how God does it. I’m not saying it is the only way, but that’s how Paul explains it happens.
So how do you do that? How do you SHARE the comfort? What do you do? What do you say when you don’t know what to say?
A Few Ideas to Share–
Just be available.
You don’t need to say anything. Simple expressions, like a hug, a smile, a simple touch of someone’s hand to start with that shows LOVE and CONCERN. They mean a great deal.
Bringing food, cutting someones grass, picking up someones mail, running errands, the list goes on and on. They all help because they’re expressions of LOVE.
We need to do something at a time when most often there are only limited ways we can help. We don’t take food because people in grief don’t have food. We take food because it is something we can do to demonstrate we care.
The “Elephant in the Room” Experience–
There are of course, some things that are better left unsaid.
Most of us know not to say, “I know just how you feel!” Even if you have had a similar loss of a loved one, say the loss of your parent. The loss of your parent is not like the loss of my parent.
RELATIONSHIP is unique and each person is unique and our feelings stand alone. We don’t need to hear that time heals all wounds. For one thing, it’s not true. We just read in 2 Corinthians 1, God is the source of ALL compassion and comfort, NOT TIME!
Time may not heal and certainly, at the moment of intense loss, the IDEA that some day all of this will not matter to us is ludicrous.
Knowing the People Around Us in our Lives–
P.T. Forsyth said: “You must live with people to know their problems, and live with God in order to solve them” (P.T. Forsyth, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 13).
It may be helpful to remember your own time of loss. If you haven’t lost someone close to you in death, talk to someone who has.
Recall what helped when tragedy struck. Then use that experience to help someone else. Use the COMFORT God comforted you with to comfort someone else.
I hope this blog-post has helped you when COMFORT is needed in your own lives and when comfort is needed in someone elses need.
Photos – Photo Pin
Bible Translations used: New American Standard (NAS) and the Amplified Bible.