“Being happy-go-lucky around a person whose heart is heavy is as bad as stealing his jacket in cold weather or rubbing salt in his wounds.”
Proverbs 25:20 (The Living Bible)
This passage stood out for me because a friend has recently lost one of their parents. Most of us have lost a loved one, so we have some idea of the pain and grief it brings. Even followers of Christ, who know we’ll be reunited with our loved-ones someday in eternity, are not immune from the feelings of loss when death takes someone close to us.
As a Christian, I have the privilege, “to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4) I have received great comfort from Jesus in my times of greatest distress, so I have a responsibility to comfort others in the same way.
But how can we do it practically?
I think this passage in Proverbs gives some guidance about how NOT to comfort people. Too many people (even well-meaning Christians) feel that they have a responsibility to put on a fake smile and speak in empty platitudes in the face of tragedy. I think we do it either because we don’t know what to say in those situations or we’re afraid that people may think we lack true faith if we can’t be “happy-go-lucky” in the face of loss. Too often, taking this course causes more harm than good.
I think the key is to consider how Jesus comforts us. I’m comforted to know that Jesus is, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) I know that He wept when He saw Mary’s grief at her brother’s death, even though he knew her brother, Lazarus, would shortly rise from the dead. (John 11:33) I remember the amazing compassion he showed to the sick, damaged, and afflicted He ministered to during his earthly ministry. All of these things give me the confidence to know that I can bring my pain to Jesus because He is no stranger to pain Himself. He is a faithful friend to whom I can pour out my heart, without fear of condemnation or misunderstanding.
Lord, give me the same heart of compassion that You have. When I see someone grieving, enable me to comfort them with the same comfort You’ve given me – by holding them, or crying with them, or even just being there without saying anything at all. Give me wisdom to know when to speak, when to be silent, what to say, and what not to say. Most of all, Lord, I pray that those who grieve would ultimately find their comfort in You, because You have triumphed over death!