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Storkersen: What does the Bible say about comforting others?

As long as I can remember, I have been a very emotional person. My childhood was marked by a lot of crying; much more than most children. While I have grown out of that phase, there is no doubt a large amount of sadness in me that still exists.

Braeden Storkersen

Braeden Storkersen

Throughout middle school and high school I was extremely depressed, which I often expressed in bursts of anger rather than tears. My senior year of high school I was diagnosed with chronic depression which brought a transparency to what I was dealing with. Due to my condition, I have to be very honest with myself about what upsets me and how to get out of that rut when I do get to a point where my depression really troubles me.

In addition, my mind in recent years has conjured up an extreme case of anxiety. While there is no doubt that there are situations that make me anxious, there are many cases where I will have an anxiety attack with absolutely no cause at all.

Although it’s been, and still is, a difficult thing to bear, my situation has brought me an unspeakable amount of empathy towards anyone who struggles with depression or anxiety. Whether it’s a clinical issue like mine often is, or a circumstantial issue which life throws at them, I can often relate to whatever someone is experiencing when they express what emotions are plaguing them.

Over the course of the past couple of years, I have become a Christian and dedicated the majority of my time, energy, and resources to ministry. Preaching the good news that there is a God who loves us, died for us, and sent His Spirit to empower us is definitely what God has wired me to do. My mental illness, coupled with the philosophical mind that God has given me, has proven to be of extreme benefit in striving to bless others.

Throughout the past few years, I have sat next to countless people who are at a terribly low point in their life.  At the same time, I have had a number of people who come to me seeking advice on what to do in situations where someone does open up about what they are going through circumstantially and emotionally.

If you are reading this article, then perhaps you yourself, or someone you know, are struggling with the emotional pain life often brings. Perhaps you are a Christian, or perhaps you aren’t. I’m not going to shove religion down your throat or tell you to believe what I believe.

On the other hand, even the most non-religious person has to admit that there are amazing principles to live by and wisdom within the pages of the Bible. Therefore, I am going to base how someone should comfort others based on what scripture says.

There is a book of the Bible that is entirely about suffering. The book is named after the main character, Job, and the book follows Job as he quickly goes from being a wealthy man who had everything to a poor man who had nothing.

In the first two chapters, we read that Job’s house was destroyed and family killed in a natural disaster. Shortly after, all of his livestock was stolen. Job was left homeless and alone. Then to make matters worse, he was infected with a terrible skin disease that left him in horrible pain from head to toe.

The news swiftly arrives at the doorsteps of three of Job’s friends. They immediately get together and all move out to go find Job in order to comfort him.

When they do finally find him, they make some great decisions in what they do to comfort Job; then they make very unwise decisions in how they choose to try to help their friend. How they go about trying to lift up Job proposes both good and bad methods to comforting someone; the positive and negative methods are made very clear toward the end of the book.

The entire story of Job is quite long and there is a lot of lofty, philosophical discussions between Job and his friends. Yet there is without a doubt one thing that they did that sticks out to me and rises above everything else they did. The text describes how they respond when they find Job:

 

“And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”

Job 2:13

This may seem very strange to a lot of people, but I believe this is the best possible response a person can have when their friend is going through a tough situation.

We often feel like we have to say something to make things better, but Job’s friends simply sat there with him.

The fact of the matter is that when they did finally choose to try to talk to him; they tried to talk him through it and give him advice. Obviously since we’re human, we do not get perfect advice. As a result, their words are criticized at the end of the book.

The application of this text is that we too need to be very honest when a friend is experiencing extreme pain. The reality is that, often times, there is nothing we can do. The majority of the time, no words can heal the wounds of what a person is going through. Yet the mere presence of another person in someone’s troubles does far more than any words ever could.

Often times, a person just has to be comforted by the presence of others. Most people, Christians especially, feel the need to rationalize a person’s suffering and tell them how it’s all going to work out for the better. They make philosophical claims of how their friend’s situation will lead to something great in the future or how it will grow them.

While some of these things may be true and be backed by good intentions, it comes off as cruel and insensitive to try to use rationalization in the heart of pure emotion.

Based on the passage of scripture in the Book of Job, the best possible thing a human being can do for someone is to make known that they are there by their side and will not leave them. The result will be that no matter what the person is going through, loneliness or lack of love and care is not a part of their burden.

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