By Billy Graham
Lonely people, hurting people need someone to help them up. To encourage them, to support them, to let them know they’re not alone. Who are the helpers, the comforters for the times when we’re bleeding and need a transfusion of love?
We can talk about God being our Comforter, but that doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility. He has given us a special assignment. The Apostle Paul said: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
We don’t have to be psychologists or trained counselors or ministers to be comforters. At some time we are all called to be comforters. Even a child can comfort with a pat or a dog with a lick.
Are We Approachable?
Does someone who is hurting feel free to tell us their problem, to cry on our shoulders, if necessary, or to ask for help? Or do we change the subject, tell a joke, or quote a Bible verse to make everything better?
Teri was a young bride when she invited Phyllis, an older Christian career woman, to have lunch. Teri was very disturbed and needed help. Phyllis, on the other hand, was someone who faced many problems every day in her business and brushed them off with positive affirmations, Instead of being open to Teri, she replied with all of the clichés, such as, “Just turn a lemon into lemonade,” or “Let’s look at the bright side.” There’s nothing wrong with those concepts, except that Teri needed someone to help her up, not give her platitudes that made her feel guilty for being discouraged.
If people feel safe disclosing their problems to us, most likely we are approachable. Confidentiality is the essence of being trusted. If our non-Christian friends don’t feel that they can trust us with their hurts, we may never be able to approach them with their need for Jesus Christ.
Are You Available?
“When I lost my husband, I saw people I had known for years pretend not to see me in the market, or walk on the other side of the street if they saw me coming. I felt like a leper.” This is how a woman described her feeling of isolation when she needed conversation and comfort. Deliberate avoidance is practiced when we don’t know what to say. It is an insensitive attitude toward a hurting person. Don’t be afraid to approach a person in pain. If he or she doesn’t want to talk about it, you’ll know. Chances are, they want someone to listen. Inside, they may be like the Psalmist who cried, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted” (Psalm 25:16)
Being available is difficult, because it takes time, but being sensitive to the small amounts of time we can give could reap large rewards in someone’s life. It doesn’t really matter what we say to comfort people during a time of suffering, it’s our concern and availability that count.
When my wife’s father died, her mother was left incapacitated by a stroke, confined to a wheelchair and limited in her speech. Friends and neighbors dropped by to comfort her. Those who comforted the most, said the least. They were widows themselves. All they did was put their arms around her and weep together briefly. But Mother was comforted. One day a group of college students came from the local college. They gathering around her on the floor – wall to wall – and accompanied by a guitar, they sang hymns. That was all.
Being available is not a statement, it’s an action.
We are surrounded by hurting people. Some may wear a plastic mask, but beneath the mask is a scarred soul. Are we approachable and available, even when we may be hurting, too? God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.
SOURCE: Hope for the Troubled Heart, 1991