Offering words of comfort

By Al Earley - A Religious Point of View

A hospital administrator was once startled to see a patient fleeing down the hall from the operating room. Stopping the patient, he asked what seemed to be wrong. The patient exclaimed, “The nurse scared me near to death when she said, “Be brave! An appendectomy is a simple operation.”

The administrator looked a bit confused and said, “Well, so what? It is quite simple. I would think that would comfort you.”

The patient said “Are you kidding? The nurse wasn’t talking to me. She was talking to the doctor!”

Being a comfort to others can be very difficult. Often the location where someone needs comforting is a place we don’t feel very comfortable ourselves. We can find ourselves at a loss for words when trying to say the right thing in a hospital, nursing home, or funeral home. It is as if our own discomfort turns our brains off, and we feel like the words we say are of little value, especially after we get away and think of all the things we should have said.

In the Old Testament book of Job, a man named Job loses everything but his wife and his life. Three friends come to comfort Job. At first they are silent. They just sit with Job and say nothing. That is a very good start. Like us, Job finds a great deal of comfort simply by having friends who will just be with him. When we go to the funeral home we really don’t have to say anything profound. Sometimes a good, heartfelt hug, and simple words of comfort like, “I am so sorry for your loss,” are just what the person needs to feel comforted.

What is comfort? Most people think of sympathy as comfort. That is to express care and concern for another. Some may venture into empathy, that is a willingness to suffer with a person. I think we, as Christians, have an opportunity to provide unique comfort for the people around us. Our faith teaches us that we have many promises from God that guarantee there is no need to fear sin, death, or evil, the sources of all of life’s struggles when people need comfort. When people need comfort they are not looking so much for the answers to “Why?”, but are looking to know their suffering and struggles have meaning, and God gives meaning to all things in life.

I have done hundreds of funerals through my years in the ministry. The single most comforting verse of scripture is from Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (KJV). The most important thing people want to know, and be reminded of, is that God is with them when they go through a difficult time.

I strongly recommend praying with someone when you truly want to comfort them. I teach our church members to stop right where they are and offer to pray when someone they are with needs comforting. The key thing to remember when praying for someone is to talk to God on their behalf, don’t use the prayer to preach to the person. One of my members told me about a coworker who was shaking with anxiety due to some personal issues that exploded right before work. He listened to her tell some of the details, and then offered to pray. She looked at him in disbelief, but later told him she saw no way that would help. As he prayed God comforted her, and her shaking ceased. At the end of the work day she came to him and expressed thanks because the prayer had changed everything. Prayer will do that. Prayer can bring miraculous comfort.

When were you in need of someone to comfort you? What brought the most comfort? Have you ever been able to comfort another person? Have you ever tried praying with someone in their time of need? It doesn’t have to be a long prayer. Believe me, simple prayers are usually best.

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By Al Earley

A Religious Point of View

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