REDISCOVERING THE ANCIENT PATH—Week of March 21, 2021
Comfort the Grieving: 2 Cor. 1:3-4
We are in Week 7 of our examination of Benedict of Nursia’s rules for Christian formation. Last week we continued examining some of the rules that focus on care for others with the directive to care for the sick. This week we will continue our journey down this ancient path by examining Rules 4.17-19: Comfort the Grieving.
One of the most amazing aspects of our God is his desire to be known and experienced in a real, intimate way. While it is true that he is the awesome and all-powerful Creator of the universe, it is also equally true that he is the tender and compassionate Lover of our souls. He longs to be in relationship with us. He desires to commune with us. He loves us so much he urges us to cast all our cares on him because he cares for us.
Beginning in Matthew 5, we find Jesus’ great Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, Jesus tells us that those who mourn will be blessed, for they will be comforted. The mourning here is not a reference to those who mourn the loss of a loved one. Christ is speaking of those who recognize they are spiritually bankrupt and mourn the resulting separation from God. For those who thus mourn, Jesus provides a tremendous promise—they will be comforted. For those willing to acknowledge their spiritual poverty and accept the reconciliation God offers through Jesus Christ, God stands ready to wrap his arms of love around them. Not only that, God offers the promise of his constant presence and comfort in the person of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, those of us who are in Christ Jesus have a twofold mission. First, we are called to comfort the grieving with the good news of the Gospel. There is no greater comfort we can offer than the good news that we can be reconciled to God. There is no real comfort, no fix for the difficulties and troubles of this life, that is sufficient unless and until we are first reconciled to God. Once our souls are thus restored and comforted through a right orientation to God, then we can both seek and offer comfort in the midst of our circumstances. Second, we must recognize that the comfort God has poured in our hearts is not merely ours to hoard. It is to be shared with others. Just as God stooped low to acquaint himself with our sorrows and grief, we, too, are called to show love and compassion to the hurting. Though this can sometimes feel awkward or intimidating, it need not be so. In this week’s passage, we are not called to have all the answers or know just the right words to say. We are simply called to comfort the grieving with the same comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by God.
In Job, we see a beautiful illustration of both what and what not to do in comforting the grieving. When Job’s friends arrive to comfort him, they start off well by sympathizing with him, crying aloud with him, identifying with him, and then just sitting in silence with him. This was the proper response to Job’s grief. It is only when they try to analyze the causes of Job’s situation and pain—when they judge him—that things go horribly awry, and they incur the wrath of not only Job, but also of God. This is a great reminder for us. We live in a world that is hurt and grieving. There is much anger, pain, and frustration. Too often, our tendency is to judge those hurting or to offer our solutions to their pain and hurt. Instead, we should be mindful that this is not our calling. Our calling is to offer the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted—the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean that we don’t show physical acts of kinds for those in distress. But it does mean that the heart behind such kindness should be rooted in the Gospel, not in our solutions to the hurt others face.
- What does it mean to mourn our spiritual condition apart from Christ? Have you ever done that? Did you feel the comfort of God? If so, what did that look like for you?
- Have you ever had someone offer you comfort when you were hurting? What did that look like? Have you ever had someone cause you further pain when they tried to offer comfort? What did they do wrong?
- What are some tangible ways you can make yourself available to comfort others? What might be some of the impediments to this you might face? How can this passage help you overcome those impediments?