An invitation to dinner with a friend… irresistible!
An invitation to suffer for the sake of offering future comfort to another? No thanks; I’m busy.
In God’s sovereign playbook, the latter seems to make sense.
“Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside when we go through hard times,
and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that
we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Suffering is rarely our choice. But comfort? We can embrace it or shut it out.
A few days after the sudden and unexpected death of my husband, a friend came to visit. She listened, hugged me, knelt before me and prayed. Then she took my hands in hers and said, “Clarice, John is dead. You are not.”
It took months of sorting through the hurt to understand the power of her words. In the grief that lingered much longer than I imagined, I realized that “death” would always have a chapter in my life story.
I thought grief might become my new message; the way God would use me during my remaining earth days to encourage others. I helped to facilitate the beginning of “GriefShare” at our church. I attended a weeklong conference in Southern California where the topic was grief and the 2,000 participants were mostly pastors and professional counselors (I am neither). I spoke at a women’s weekend retreat where the Lord guided me to teach from this place of grief.
But after two years, I felt God’s nudge to move on. So I slipped off my grief jacket, but I didn’t discard it. Because God showed up for me in amazing ways during the hard days of death and recovery, I knew grief would always be part of my story to tell. He was strong when I was weak. But it no longer was my whole story.
Death is not the only cause of grief. Recently I had dinner with a friend who has stepped into a new chapter in her life story. It is divorce. She never wanted it. She prayed, hard. She counseled, hard. She worked, hard. But it wasn’t enough. And she has now entered a world shared by many but wanted by none. We have planned weekly dinners for a while, a safe place for her to remove her mask and express all the pain she feels.
As I began eating my pasta, she dove into tearful sharing. Soon I put down my fork and simply listened, stunned. God was giving her strength to breathe through the days, grace to forgive, insight to keep her heart soft, and creative options as she moved into the future with a soon-to-be former husband while, hopefully, causing minimum pain and disruption for their adult children. I felt God’s smile on her.
I drove away believing the Lord was fashioning a path for this precious friend to comfort others one day who also suffer the incredible loss of love and marriage.
She clings tightly to the Lord. She carves out time to ponder His Word, dialogue through to truth and even come away for weekends of stillness with Him. I believe God will heal her pain. But even more, I believe God will use her pain – He will make it count as she comforts others. He is giving her that kind of vulnerability and courage.
In Mark Batterson’s book, Whisper, he writes:
“Faith isn’t flying above the storm; it’s weathering the storm. It’s trusting God’s heart
even when we can’t see His hand. It’s understanding that sometimes the obstacle is the way!
"If you want to know where God will use you, you need look no further than your pain.
We help others in the places where we’ve been hurt. Our trials become our platforms. And our weakness is actually our strength because that’s where God’s power is made perfect.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
TO CONSIDER: Are you willing to offer your past pain for God’s use in someone’s life today? What message of comfort is now yours to give away?