Not "Touchy-Feely?" Here's How to Comfort Hurts
Dr. Julie Barrier, along with her pastor-husband, Dr. Roger Barrier, have taught conferences on marriage and ministry in 35 countries. The Barriers are founders and directors of Preach It, Teach It providing free resources in 10 languages to 5 million visitors in 229 countries and territories. The Barriers pastored 35 years at Casas Church in Arizona, Julie has served as a worship minister, concert artist and adjunct professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. She has authored or composed of over 500 published works.
- 2012 Sep 19
Clueless? At a loss for words when someone you love is hurting? Are you doomed to being labelled "cold, un-feeling, distant? You can become a great comforter!
If you are left-brained you may tend to be less empathetic than your right-brained “touchy-feely”compadres. You probably want a cracker-jack engineer to make your car, but you may have reservations about having him hold his three-year-old son when he skinned his knee. Perhaps it is more difficult for a systematic, consequential thinker to read what is going on in another person’s heart. So...how do you express comfort and empathize with those who are hurting when comforting doesn't come easily?
You ask questions.
"How are you feeling?" "What are you experiencing right now?" "I am so sorry." "Tell me about what's bothering you. I really want to know..." You must also notice the event which cause hurt and be prepared to comfort: a death in the family, a job change, a lost boyfriend, a failed marriage, a miscarriage, etc.
Here are just a few simple thoughts about comfort....
COMFORTERS CARE ENOUGH TO COME UNINVITED.
If a friend has a heart attack, it’s not long before you’re down at the hospital beside your friend. You don’t wait for an invitation. No one is ever invited to a funeral. We go to pay our last respects. Job’s comforters did well to come to the trash heap where he was grieving and suffering. They sat quietly with Job. They only ruined their ministry to their friend when they started talking.
Whenever you see hurt, comfort it.
COMFORTERS LISTEN CAREFULLY SO THEY CAN MINISTER TO THE EMOTIONS AND NOT REACT TO THE WORDS.
You have to learn to listen. Enter their emotional world. Be sad when they are sad. Feel the same emotion that they are feeling. My best friend, Ellen, lost her husband to a massive heart attack at forty-five. It was a long journey for her to re-enter life again. One thing I discovered really helped her. She was deeply blessed when I would tell her how much I missed Larry too. We reminisced about our lives together as families. I wept with her. Most people avoid talking about the loved one they lost.
Comforting Ellen meant that I listened and responded to the suffering person’s emotions and not react to their words.
COMFORTERS OPENLY EXPRESS THE DEPTH OF THEIR FEELINGS.
The nurse who comes to take care of you in the hospital – is she going to say, “How are you – really? Tell me, I want to feel deeply with you.” Are you kidding? She says, “Bend over.” Here come the shots! “I’m sorry, but it was really your fault.” “If you really love Jesus, you would rise above this!” “Boys don’t cry!” “If you just had more faith, this wouldn’t have happened to you…” Friends don’t give each other shots!
COMFORTERS UNDERSTAND, SO THEY SAY VERY LITTLE.
I was laying in bed after my first daughter Jessie was taken to ICU, and one of our church members came to see me. She told me that if I had more faith, God would heal her. She told me that all things work together for good to those who love God. She preached for fifteen minutes and I wished she’d just go away. Another lady came and sat quietly, stroked my hair and prayed simply. And I hated to see her go.
You’ve done it right when they hate to see you go.
COMFORTERS ARE NOT TURNED OFF BY DISTASTEFUL SIGHTS.
You’re not turned off because the room doesn’t smell good. You’re not turned off because your friend weighs half of what he used to weigh.
You see beyond all of that. You’re not turned off because they’re lying there in a hospital gown. Or because the bottom has dropped out of their lives and they are at wit’s end. That doesn’t turn you off and make you turn around and leave. That draws you in.
One of my dearest friends died a horrible death of cancer. I watched her dwindle to 85 pounds. Donna and I had done 46 youth trips, choir tours, and orchestra ministry trips. We had hauled stage equipment and cooked for hungry teenagers. Donna would do all the jobs that no one else would do. She was my prayer partner and my confidant. When she was so sick, I was afraid to see her in such agony. But then I came and cried with her about the grandchildren she would never see, and the suffering that racked her body. I’d sing to her, read her scripture, and rubbed her hands with lotion.
One day, Jesus said to me, “Julie, it’s time to help Donna die.” In those moments, her need for comfort and assurance was more than I could possibly imagine.
The last time I saw Donna alive, I felt God say to me: “Remind her that in my Father’s house are many mansions, and if I go, I WILL come again and take you to myself. There’s not a bright light, not an angel, but Jesus himselfwill take you by the hand and usher you into heaven. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear for you are WITH Me.” As clearly as if I heard my husband’s voice, Jesus said, “Tell her I have her by the hand.”
Don’t be afraid to hurt with someone. Be compassionate. Enter into the sufferings of others as Jesus always enters into yours.
What is the shortest, easiest-to-remember verse in the Bible?
“Jesus wept.”John 11:35. NIV