Note: This is Post # 15 in the series titled “The Transformed Life” based on Romans 12. Please click here for previous posts: POST # 1, POST # 2, POST # 3, POST # 4, POST # 5, POST # 6, POST # 7, POST # 8, POST # 9, POST # 10, POST # 11, POST # 12, POST # 13, POST # 14.
As we continue through the series on the transformed life, this is Part 2 of the post that deals with Romans 12:15b, “mourn with those who mourn” or “weep with those who weep” as some other translations render it. Please see here for Part 1 of this post.
In the previous post, we saw under the section “How to weep with those weep,” 5 things to consider under “What Not To Do.” They are: (1) Don’t tell them to just get over it (2) Don’t promise full deliverance NOW (3) Don’t play the comparison game. (4) Don’t play the judge (5) Don’t play the avoidance game.
In this post, we will see the 5 things to consider under “What To Do” as we seek to comfort those who are going through a hard time in life.
What To Do
1. Use the weapon of Prayer. We must first and foremost pray for their deliverance privately on a regular basis. We must plead with God that they would experience his presence through this trial. We must ask God to use us and others as he sees fit to bring comfort to the suffering one.
We must also ask God to grant us wisdom to use the right words in person or via other means [email, texting]—words that would bring healing and encouragement. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” The second part of Proverbs 12:18 says, “the tongue of the wise bring healing.” Our words can bring much needed healing for their troubled souls.
We must pray with the suffering one in person when visiting them or even via phone. Even a few words of prayer as we plead with God to intervene and accomplish his will be of tremendous encouragement to the one suffering.
2. Where possible, visit them at their convenience. We must visit people at their convenience—not ours! This is not a, “Let me work it according to my convenience” issue. We must be sensitive to the needs of the one who is hurting.
And when we do visit, it should not seem rushed to the sufferer. One of the most hurtful things when visiting those who are mourning is to keep looking at the clock every 2 minutes to see when we can leave. We spend hours with those who are rejoicing, but when visiting the ones who are mourning, it is in haste. That does not mean we have to spend a whole lot of time with them either. Duration must depend on the sufferer’s needs and convenience.
3. Be a good listener. When we are with those who are mourning, we must speak less and listen more. Listening not just to their words, but also to their hearts. A person weeping may be more broken on the inside than their words indicate. We must try to feel their emotions.
We must be patient even when they don’t say all the right words. We don’t need to correct them too quickly. We must have them talk first. If they are silent, it is okay for us to be quiet as well. Sometimes just the physical presence is healing. Sitting by them and putting a hand on their shoulder without words when we don’t know what to say or when we feel it’s best to be silent is totally fine as well! The presence itself can very healing to the hurting one.
A story is told about a little boy with a big heart. His next-door neighbor was an older gentleman whose wife had recently died. When the youngster saw the elderly man crying, he climbed up onto his lap and simply sat there. Later, his mother asked the boy what he had said to their saddened neighbor. “Nothing,” the child replied. “I just helped him cry.”
Sometimes that is the best thing we can do for people who are facing profound sorrow. Often, our attempts to say something wise and helpful are far less valuable than just sitting next to the bereaved ones, holding their hand, and crying with them. [Our Daily Bread, Dec 14, 1999].
4. Encourage them through Scriptures. I cannot minimize the role of Scriptures when we weep with those who weep. Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Hope to the hurting comes through the right use of God’s word used by God’s people. And we can be “hope dealers” as we use God’s word. Encourage the suffering one with the hope of eternity without minimizing their present pain.
We must acknowledge their pain—which is real to them. We must encourage them to cry. We must remind them about Bible repeatedly mentioning how God’s people over the years cried out to him. We can encourage them to cry in hope—one day these tears will no longer be there.
Helping the hurting to find strength in God is a beautiful thing to do as Jonathan did for a discouraged David, “15 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. 16 And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God” [1 Sam 23:15-16].
5. Provide Practical Help. Where needed, we must provide practical help. It could be in terms of getting them some food, or money or watching their kids or cleaning their home or doing their laundry. We must be sensitive to their needs and ask God to show how we can practically help them. People may not always ask, but we must be willing to still help as best as we can.
So, we are to: (1) Use the weapon of Prayer (2) Where possible, visit them at their convenience (3) Be a good listener (4) Encourage them through Scriptures (5) Provide Practical Help.
While we are on this subject, I would also like to address the issue of what we ought to do when we are the ones weeping. In other words, a word to those who are weeping. It may be you right now or will be you sometime in the future.
A word to those who are weeping.
At times, those who come to comfort you may not speak the right words. Try to overlook their faults. They too are fellow sinners. Sometimes, you may feel nobody is comforting you. Even in those situations, beware of developing a heart of resentment.
Remember, you too may be guilty of not weeping with those who were weeping at one time or the other. You may also be guilty of having said the wrong things in the past to those who were weeping—could have been even to your own parents or siblings when they were suffering. Just as they overlooked your faults, overlook the faults of others. Colossians 3:13 calls us to bear with one another’s weaknesses.
At times, people may not know you are suffering—keep that in mind as well! So, make sure people are aware you are going through suffering if you want their support. I don’t mean that one should continually advertise their problems. If you just keep to yourself and nobody else knows anything about your problems, remember that you are the one that’s the main cause for being alone in time of suffering.
I recall an incident years ago when a person was upset that I, the pastor did not visit and pray when the person was going through trials. The person quoted James 5:14 to say that it is the responsibility of elders to come and pray when members are going through trials. James 5:14 reads, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”
The problem was that I was not even aware that the person was going through difficulties. So, I said, “That’s true. But equally true is that the same verse also clearly says those who are going through trials should first call the elders. The pastor is not a mind reader. He’s not omniscient. So, it goes both ways.”
So, if you are suffering, let your pastor, and as needed other people know so, they can come alongside. The Christian life is not to be lived alone on an island. It is to be lived in the context of a community wherein we share our joys and our griefs. You don’t have to suffer alone! It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It’s a sign of maturity to follow the biblical instruction of sharing our burdens with others. You are not bothering others!
Being Better Comforters
Ecclesiastes 7:2, 4 says “2 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. 4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.” Going into the house of mourning gives us the right perspective of life and eternity. We really get a proper grip on living only when we get a right grip on death. And that can happen only when we weep with those who are weeping!
Despite the clarity of these verses, yet if most of us are honest with ourselves, our schedules testify against us as to this not being the case. We spend more hours with those who are feasting than with those who are mourning! Typically, we say “Yes” to more parties where there is feasting than say “Yes” to going and spending time with one who is lonely and weeping!
Yes, we are to rejoice with those who rejoice, but we are also equally commanded to mourn with those who mourn. In a world that couldn’t care less for those who are suffering, we should care more for those who are suffering.
You see, we live in an incredibly broken world. A world filled with a lot of pain and sorrows. But one day God has promised to make all things new. He has promised to wipe away all tears when he removes once and for all even the presence of sin and the ensuing sorrow and death. Until then, he has called you and me to be the ones to wipe the tears of those who are weeping.
It’s been said that a comforter’s ability to help is not so much their talent for using words as it is their capacity to be sympathetic.
Dr. Paul Brand has beautifully expressed this truth in his book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. He writes: “When I ask patients and their families, ‘Who helped you in your suffering?’ I hear a strange, imprecise answer. The person described rarely has smooth answers and a winsome, effervescent personality. It is someone quiet, understanding, who listens more than talks, who does not judge or even offer much advice.
‘A sense of patience.’ ‘Someone there when I needed him.’ A hand to hold. An understanding, bewildered hug. A shared lump in the throat.”
Sometimes, in trying so hard to say the right thing, we forget that the language of feeling speaks much louder than our words. [Our Daily Bread, March 3, 2002].
Let us go to those we know who are weeping. Let us shed tears of love with them. Let us be a blessing to them. It’s a command, and it’s our calling. Let’s do it faithfully.
We must also learn to weep for those who DON’T weep for themselves. What do I mean? There are many of our loved ones and friends who rather than weeping for their sins and turning to Christ are totally indifferent to Christ. For such people, we must learn to shed tears as we cry out to God for their salvation.
Again, we have an example in Jesus who wept for the very people who would crucify him [Luke 19:41]. Paul wept for the Jews who were persecuting him [Rom 9:1-3]. Elsewhere in Philippians 3:18 when he writes of those who reject Christ, this is what he says: “For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.”
Let’s also weep for the lost!