Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
The suffering that God brings into our lives enables and equips us to comfort others in their trials. Yet this enabling is only possible because of the great comfort we receive from God in the midst of our own affliction. Indeed, in tenderness and mercy, God ministers to us specifically “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.”
If we are to bestow compassion on those who are suffering, we must first battle the tendency to grow bitter and inward-focused as a result of our own troubles. In the Old Testament, we read the story of a young Israelite girl who was captured in a Syrian raid, taken far from her family, and forced into servitude. Her life held great potential for bitterness, anger, and vengefulness. But when she learned that the master of her household had contracted leprosy, she encouraged him to seek the Lord’s healing, even directing him to someone who could help (2 Kings 5:1-3). How was she able to have such compassion that she was willing to point him towards such comfort? At least in part, it must have been that when she witnessed all her master’s turmoil and heartache, her own experience had already so softened her heart as to make her empathetic to his concerns.
In addition, we must avoid offering merely intellectual or pat answers, which often hurt rather than heal. In-depth philosophical discussions on the nature of suffering might stimulate the mind, but nothing but the gospel can settle the heart. And we do well to remind ourselves that God’s ways are beyond our understanding. We do not have to have all the answers. We must not forget the eloquence of empathetic silence. Arguably, one of the most helpful ways in which Job’s companions entered into his suffering and offered comfort was when they simply “sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him” (Job 2:13). In fact, they were being good friends to him until they decided to open their mouths!
The greatest comfort we can extend to others in their suffering is, gently and with tears over their trials, to point them to Christ Himself, because only Christ can fully enter into our pain. As our ascended King and Great High Priest, He is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” as “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are” (Hebrews 4:15).
Are there wounds in your life that you have never allowed to surface—deep sorrows that you have never given over to God? Today, ask the Lord to help you cast your burdens afresh on Him. Ask for His divine enabling to view your suffering through the prism of Christ’s cross so that you may be overwhelmed by His amazing compassion—and, in turn, be a blessing to others.