Good Comforting

November 15, 2019
by Martin Wiles

Job 16:2 – I have heard all this before. What miserable comforters you are! (NLT)

Regardless of where she went, she couldn't find comfort.

Leah and her husband were never apart. They even volunteered at the same place after they retired. Both appeared to be in good health, so you can imagine Leah's shock when her husband dropped dead. Jeff was outside cutting grass. He'd had no recent health concerns. But when Leah saw him stumble in the doorway and say that he wasn't feeling well, she could see that something wasn't right. Within a few minutes, he had slumped over, never to recover.

Although months have passed since Jeff's death, Leah still mourns and suffers with anxiety and depression. She has been to counsellors, pastors, and friends, but nothing seems to soothe her pain. She can't focus, and she struggles to make it through each day. She left her old church, saying that she just couldn't stand to attend without Jeff. Leah longs for lasting comfort, but she can't find it anywhere.

Job didn't find it with his fair-weather friends either. He had lost almost everything that a person could lose and still survive. What's worse, God permitted his woes to prove to Satan that Job would maintain his loyalty to God despite extreme adversity. The only comfort that Job's friends could muster was telling him that he had sinned. "Confess, and things will get better" was their advice. Job, however, had nothing to confess. He maintained his innocence and muddled through his pain and sorrow.

Job's friends did what is typical. They thought that they had to say something to soothe his grief — and they did. But what they said didn't do the trick, nor was it biblically sound. Telling someone that God needed another angel or that we know how they feel is hollow comforting. God doesn't take life to get angels, nor do humans become angels after death — and no two people experience similar episodes in the same way.

Presence in the midst of grief is better than words. Sharing truth from God's Word can be comforting, but timing is critical. Sitting and listening and letting the person cry on one's shoulder is better. When the time is right, they'll ask, and then we can share words of wisdom that they might need to hear. For the moment, silence is golden, and practical help is priceless.

Comforting those who grieve is tricky business. Before we speak or act, let's pray and ask God for direction and wisdom.

Prayer: Father, give us wisdom to know how to comfort those who are hurting with grief. Amen.

About the author:

Martin Wiles <mandmwiles@gmail.com>
Greenwood, South Carolina, USA

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Thanks, Martin. Good advice for times of grief.


    Good Morning Martin. An excellent devotional.


    AMEN, Martin. Thank you.
    (Texas)


    This is wonderfully described and explained. Thank you for this Martin.


    Sure speaks to me, Martin, on many levels. Thank you for hunting down these excellent scriptures that I had never seen in this light before.


    Excellent this advice. Silence is golden. Just a person’s caring presence is worth a thousand words. Funeral visitations are hard as people talk too much, as they do not know what to say. Mennonite visitations are very quiet – hardly any talking.


    We went through this with a lady in our congregation. She ended up moving back to Scotland after living in Canada most of her life, trying to run from the grief. Now many years later she seems to have finally recovered. Indeed, it is a tricky business which requires lots of prayer and sensitivity.


    Good morning Martin,
    A “good advice” devotional. Thank you for writing and it is so true that just physical presence of someone who cares, can be so consoling and comforting.
    Blessings to you for writing about this.
    (B.C.)


    Really appreciated your devotional today Martin.
    As a social worker learning to listen was one of my biggest learning curves and also accepting that each person is on their own journey and, through God’s grace, will end up where they are meant to be.
    Thanks.


    Martin, when I read this piece, I wondered whether this wisdom you wrote about was from experience or from another source, but however you found it, it is true. The best thing we can do to help others who grieve is just to go and be with them, and listen, even when they tell the same stories over and over as I did to God and to my best friend. Thank you for writing this piece. Blessings.


    Good morning Martin,
    Comforting is tricky business for sure. When my mother died, I was still a young man at the time, someone said to me, “I know exactly how you feel, I lost my mother too.” I told him, that that was different, this was MY mother. Like you wrote, none of us experience things the same way.
    Thank you for writing.


    Thanks, Martin, for that wise reminder. When my hubbie died, those who walked with me and let me grieve, helped me most. One youngish guy thought he would lighten my loss told how widows cry with one eye and look for a husband with the other. He was no help. He only made me feel my loss more. It took me awhile to finally come to the place where I could say that he doesn’t know any better. He has not felt what it is to be torn in half.


    Martin,
    Thanks for sharing about just listening when a person is grieving. Some just need a safe place to say it over and over again until they have exhausted their grief. Not judging and just listening can work for some. They really don’t need advice; they just need someone to listen to them. This is not easy for the comforter, but it is not easy what the griefer is facing. With God’s help and wisdom, we can all reach out to others who are in need.


    Great message Martin. When my Father died, there is one person’s comment I still remember. As they gave me a hug they said in my ear; “Oh I know how you feel, I lost my Father too. You will get over it. You will feel better in a about a week.” I think I went numb. Really? A week?… (7 Months later I was still crying my eyes out!) The persons hurtful comment did teach me a lesson- it reminded me of times I said things to grieving people, that I wished I could also take back!

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