My brother Ken, exhausted from his work as a medical physicist, offers comfort to his little grandson until both fall asleep. Whether we struggle with pain, grief or another form of suffering, human touch conveys something worth noticing. What I love most in one of this year’s photos of trimming the Christmas tree is the protective arm Brent has around Becky. The tactile comfort, both given and received, speaks of hope, grace, and love. Each affirms trust that they will emerge renewed after a difficult year.
The apostle Paul writes giving the completeness cycle I believe is intended in comfort. God, the Father of all, comforts those in pain and grief (all affliction) that they might extend solace and consolation to others who are hurting, thoughtfully, as God has comforted them. Can we grasp the immense healing made available if we follow the cycle prescribed?
Note the alls and anys in these two verses from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Our Father is the God of all comfort… who meets us in all our afflictions…. so we can minister to those in any affliction as God gave in ways that comforted us.
Compassion and comfort look different in the 21st century than in the 1950s or the first century! Find out what ministers or comforts the one suffering pain or grief. Your Aunt Matilda’s chicken casserole might have received rave reviews 50 years ago, but a tomato, cheese, spicy pasta dish may not even be eaten after someone’s surgery!
Today, I see many churches sending gift cards for restaurants near a person’s home. The church creates a basket that includes theatre tickets, roller rink passes, a gift card for a massage, coupons for oil changes for the family car, tickets that give the hurting folks a night away from the house without breaking the newly reduced family budget. Teens can include free babysitting coupons. Let your imagination run toward things that have comforted you.
If you do not know the suffering or grieving person well, talk to someone who does. And plan to go beyond saying, “Just call me if you need anything.” The intention may be sincere, but try something specific.
“I can get tickets to a gymnastics meet at the nearby college for March 31. I would love to have your daughter join my daughters and me.” Then follow up with a phone call to give specific times.
Exercise your creativity and gifts as you seek to comfort others. Make sure to take the time needed to discover the things that will minister to the likes and preferences of the people you want to comfort.
As a four-year-old recovering from polio in 1950, I was comforted by the smell of my mom’s face powder, the gingerly given hugs from my dad, and the visits from my girl cousins. The Baker and Palmer girls gave up their Saturdays or Sunday afternoons to take the long drive to come sit beside me — when I couldn’t even get out of the banana cart contraption to play.