Those who have suffered most are often best able to comfort others. I know of pastors whose ministries have been enriched by suffering. Through their trials they have learned to live through the difficulties of people in their church family.
Someone who has experienced the same sort of pain is the one who can minister best. However, to say, “I know how you feel,” is usually an unnecessary and frequently unwelcome approach. No one knows exactly how another feels. One couple who had lost their oldest son in an accident tried to comfort another couple whose child had died after lingering for many months. The comfort was only in the loss, not in the circumstances. Better to say, “I don’t know how you feel, I can’t really put myself in your shoes, but his is how I was comforted…” Our sufferings may be hard to bear, but they teach us lessons which, in turn, equip and enable us to help others.
Only God’s spirit can truly mend a broken heart, but we can be a part of the healing process. We don’t have to be a priest or preacher, a trained counselor or psychiatrist to be a comforter. We just need to be available, as Christ is available to us. When He was comforting His disciples before He left them, they were confused, questioning, and frightened. He said, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22).
Our attitude toward suffering should not be, “Grit your teeth and bear it,” hoping it will pass as quickly as possible. Our goal should be to learn all we can from our personal problems, so that we can fulfill a ministry of comfort, just as Jesus did. “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).
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 doesn’t comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.
SOURCE: Hope for the Troubled Heart, 1991
Is someone in your life going through a difficult time? Pray for them today, and pray for opportunities to be a part of their healing process. Pray specifically for the individuals on your “Matthew list.” If you’ve not yet signed up and started your list, we hope you’ll do it today! God can, and will, use us to minister in the lives of people around us.