In times of difficulty and suffering there are three vastly different types of comforters:
1) There is a group of comforters I like to call the “self-absorbed comforters.” They appear unfazed and unconcerned about those who are suffering around them (Luke 10:30-32; Jas 2:15-16). Initially, their lack of empathy/ sympathy is very hurtful to the sufferer. The sufferer wonders why a co-worker, friend, family member, or fellow Christian has made no attempt to help, but, once the initial jolt of sadness is overcome, the “self-absorbed comforter” is, for the most part, “out of sight, out of mind.”
2) On the opposite end of the spectrum is the “self-sacrificing comforters.” (Matt. 25:34-40). People in this group care, and they demonstrate their care by sacrificing time and resources for others in need (Luke 10:33-35). They know what to say, how to say it, and execute with precision the very things the sufferer needs. They demonstrate real empathy/sympathy for the sufferer, which results in mutual love and respect for one another. A self-sacrificing comforter helps both parties benefit from a tragic situation.
3) Unfortunately, there is a group of comforters who qualify as the “oblivious comforters.” It is not that these individuals do not care; it is that they do not know how to care. Comforters among this group are actually more aggravating and hurtful than self-absorbed comforters because, though they mean well, they say and do things that are very hurtful to the sufferer. To make matters worse, they think they are helping, so they associate often with the sufferer. Sufferers may quietly take mental abuse from these “oblivious comforters,” because they do not want to appear ungrateful for someone who is trying to help.
So how can we (notice I wrote “we”) avoid falling into the “oblivious comforters” group? We won’t be perfect all the time, but there are some things we can work on as we try to become better comforters. To get started, here a three things NOT to say to someone who is suffering:
- “You must have sinned.” Yikes! This is about the worst thing you can say to someone who is suffering mental and/or physical anguish. Remember, Job had his own group of “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2). Do you know