Recently, I met with a friend who shared the loss of her granddaughter, who died at 20 weeks in utero. As we sat in our local sandwich shop, we cried together over the loss of the baby, the grief she shared with her daughter and son-in-law, and the dreams she and her husband had of being grandparents. The sun shining through the restaurant windows on that clear winter afternoon seemed to taunt us as it cast happy rays on the faces of people enjoying their day. For a time, we sat in the shadows.
I am often amazed that I work in this grief-care space, teaching others how to help people suffering after a reproductive loss. I frequently introduce myself as one who has “said all the wrong things” to hurting people. Embarrassed yet hoping to offer encouragement, I blurted untrue and unhelpful sentiments. As I have wrestled with my weakness about saying the wrong thing in situations, two specific truths come to mind that can help our grieving friends with the hope the Lord has offered through his Word.
First, we are reminded that the Lord draws near to those who are hurting. He is already there at the restaurant, coffee shop, or family gathering. The ministry of comfort involves the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31), God, the Father (2 Cor 1:3,4), and Christ, the Son (2 Cor 1:5; Phil 2:1), who is abundantly qualified to comfort man. Dane Ortlund writes, “Our pain never outstrips what he himself shares in. We are never alone. That sorrow that feels so isolating, so unique, was endured by him in the past and is now shouldered by him in the present.” We can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that God is already there, near to those in need. His presence has already begun the work at hand.
Second, God has called us to care for His sheep, which means that when they suffer loss, we need to be there for them by making ourselves available in humility and gentleness (Eph. 4:2). In the past, perhaps you have not been a student of your words or deeds in this area. But God is kind to reveal this to us when we ask Him to be the the person who offers the comfort and wisdom with which Christ comforts us. We can console each other through a gentle hand on the shoulder, a silent embrace, or shared tears. Other times, meaningful words are shared. In every case, it means taking our eyes off ourselves and looking outward to help others. It means, in the words of Benjamin Warfield, “Not that we should live one life, but a thousand lives—binding ourselves to a thousand souls by the filaments of so loving a sympathy that their lives become ours.”
Hearing our friend’s stories are a precious gift. Our conversation continually can point to Jesus as the Wonderful Counselor who brings the ultimate comfort to the suffering soul. With that knowledge, we can rest assured.