Gonzalez: How Not to Comfort a Loved One

There’s sin in the world. We know this. It sucks. I wish there wasn’t sin. Someday, Jesus will come back, and the sin will be gone. But until then, we have sin. And because of that sin, we have suffering. We have hurricanes and crime and death. So we hurt.

I’ve had two miscarriages, and that hurts. Everyday there’s this pain inside me that will never be erased. I’ll live with the pain and sorrow until Christ’s return.

And suffering is so hard. It often feels like you’re terribly alone, abandoned, forgotten. But then your friends come. Your family stands around you and hugs you and comforts you, which is great, and kind, and wonderful, in theory. But is that comfort really comforting?

People have kindness on their hearts when they try to give you words of wisdom in the time of hurt. They want to help, they want to be a source of support and companionship, and they try their best.

But for me, these words of wisdom usually left me feeling worse.

“You just weren’t ready to be a mother yet.”

“God is just testing your faith.”

“It’s because Miguel is studying to be a pastor, and he needs to know how to handle these situations.”

These were some of the words I got. And for all of them, it meant that God let my children die for that reason. But I believe that God is a God of life. He hates death. He loves children. Why would he let my children die?

Today, a dear friend pointed out Job when I was sharing my frustrations about this topic. Job had lost his servants, his children, his property, and he was overtaken by sores all over his body. He was suffering.

Job’s three friends came to him: “They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him” (Job 2:11). How did they show sympathy and comfort? They sat:

And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. (Job 2:12-13)

They said nothing. No one spoke. They just offered support and love by being there. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. That can be the greatest thing in a time of loss and pain: presence of a loved one. Words aren’t necessary.

If you read a little further in Job, his friends start talking. And it’s not so great:

“Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope? Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?” (Job 4:6-7)

This, my friends, is the Theology of Glory. Do good, and good will be done to you. Do bad, and you’ll suffer. So, Job must have done something bad to deserve all of this. Well, no. That’s first of all incorrect theology, and secondly, not helpful for Job to hear.

We don’t know why we suffer, beyond the fact that sin is in the world. Don’t try to provide an answer to someone who has just lost. That’s trying to understand God and his mind. We can’t do that. We are just mere men. All we have to stand on, all we have to look at for answers when we’re hurting is the Cross and what Jesus did for us (Theology of the Cross). This is the only answer we know for certain about suffering: God, our Heavenly Father, loves us so much that he sent his only Son to die on a cross and take the punishment for all our sin. 

It’s hard to know what to say when embracing a loved one who is hurting. My suggestion is that instead of trying to say something that you think could be helpful but you don’t know for absolute certain that it’s true, stick to the basic facts found in Scripture: “Sin is ugly and it sucks. Jesus loves you so dearly and died for you. When he returns, you’ll never suffer again. I love you, and I’m praying for you.”

It may not sound like much, but that, my friends, is the most. That’s the best thing anyone can hear.

Disclaimer: originally posted on the author’s personal blog.

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