Seeking But Not Finding
Involvement in someone’s pain gives a dimension to a relationship that nothing else is able to do. So often people suffer alone because we lack the comforting skills that will give us the confidence to be comforters. The words of David pierce our hearts:
Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. (Ps. 69:20)
Many broken-hearted women feel helpless. They sit on the pew next to us, but they suffer in silence because they are afraid we will reject them if we know about the abortion or the son who is in jail or the daughter who is pregnant or the husband who is an alcoholic. Women have told me that they seek out support groups away from their churches because they can’t bear to risk exposing their pain inside their churches.
Other women’s hurting hearts leave them feeling helpless because they think it is wrong to feel pain. These women have somehow gotten the idea that Christians should not suffer depression or fear or grief. They are ashamed to admit their pain. In both kinds of situations, we as individuals and collectively as the church must examine the message we are communicating, the atmosphere we are creating, and the skills we are developing. Are we comforting others as part of our ministry of encouragement?
A Breath of Fresh (Comforting) Air
We need to formulate a Biblical message of comfort, and we also need to create an atmosphere where this message can be heard. Caring enough to “be there” communicates loving involvement in another’s pain. Hurting people require enormous energy just to survive. We can be a further drain on their energies through insensitive remarks or neglect, or we can provide an atmosphere of love that makes it easier for them to experience God’s comfort.
By involving ourselves in another person’s pain, we can help them experience God’s comfort.
I blush to think how often I have done nothing because I didn’t know what to do. If the crisis is “delicate,” I am especially unsure of myself. I say nothing to the woman who is going through a divorce or to the woman whose unmarried daughter is pregnant because I don’t want to embarrass her. My hurting sister interprets my silence as rejection, and she hurts even more. I may be praying for her daily, but if I don’t tell her, she feels isolated and says with David, “I looked for sympathy . . . for comforters . . . but found none.” By not being there for her, I do not provide a safe environment for her wounds to heal.
By involving ourselves in another person’s pain, we can help them experience God’s comfort. An atmosphere of love will facilitate healing for wounded people. All of us cannot and should not be counselors. Often professional counseling is needed, and we can do great harm by attempting to do more than we are equipped to do. Yet we can all be comforters—we can be there for the hurting person, and we can share with them the comfort we have received from God.
Seizing the Opportunity
Hurting times are prime times to encourage and equip a younger woman to glorify God. But we can only do this through the ministry of comfort. Our presence must be a safety zone for hurting people. Our churches must be safe places not only for those with mentionable hurts but also for those with unmentionable hurts. We must make a conscious effort to incorporate comfort into our personal and collective ministries.
Women have a capacity for comfort and an inclination for action which are powerful resources in our churches. When women’s nurturing instincts are mobilized, the ministry of comfort in a church is energized. Comfort creates the context in which a woman can be encouraged and equipped to use her pain for God’s glory.
Let us determine that no woman among us will have to say, “I looked for comforters but found none.”
This article is adapted from Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women by Susan Hunt.