God of All Comfort

It is gut wrenching to watch a loved one process grief but we must resist using platitudes and exhortations - the best way to help is to simply be with them.

One morning, I was Zooming with a group of friends about the rare gift of a friend who knows how to just ‘be’ with you as you process through grief. That friend who sits with you without offering platitudes. That friend who quietly listens and gives hugs when needed, and stays with you in your grief, even when it is so so uncomfortable. Early the next morning, I received word that a woman whose writings and teachings on intercession impacted me greatly passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. Thousands of people had been praying for her for a long time. What do we do at such a time as this? We grieve and it is right and proper to grieve and to allow others to do so as well. I wrote this many years ago but felt to share it once again.

God of All Comfort
Inconsolable grief. The dictionary defines it as: sad beyond comforting; incapable of being consoled. Most of us have experienced such grief in our own lives and have witnessed it in the lives of our friends and family.

I find it heart-wrenching to bear witness to inconsolable grief. I want to take the pain away; I want to apply a magic salve that takes away the grievous injury. I long to speak the words that immediately stop the anguish, I want to speak the words that answer all the questions and I want to speak the words that soothe the spirit. I would do anything, I would go anywhere, I would say anything, if I could only take them out of that unbearable pain, if even for a moment. Even as I struggle to say just the right word or do the right thing, the Lord reminds me of just what my friends need me to be during such times of loss.

They don’t need my answers. They don’t need my wisdom. They don’t need a plan; they don’t need a theological discourse on why there is evil in the world. Even the gentlest of words spoken at the wrong moment can assault the ears and bruise a wounded heart. What they really need from me is for me to be me. They only need me to be there with them, and to stay present in their pain.

I remember the reception that followed my brother’s funeral. Jim was one of my closest friends, my greatest cheerleader and my protector. His death was particularly tragic as he was killed by a drunk driver. My parent’s house was swamped that afternoon; over 200 people were crammed in every nook and cranny of the split-level home. People from all walks of life were there, relatives, neighbours, old family friends, church members and high school buddies. All were there to bring comfort and to be comforted. I was exhausted, having travelled from Ontario to Calgary for the funeral. I hadn’t really slept since his death, five days prior. I was still in shock and words of condolence washed over me like water.

Some younger people were there, most of who had not attended a funeral before. In their discomfort, they were speechless. One young girl I knew from a coffee house ministry solemnly charged me to remember Paul’s exhortation to rejoice in the Lord always, and suggested that I was sinning if I could not truly rejoice that my brother was in heaven. At that moment, I just wanted my big brother’s arm around my shoulders and to hear one of his corny puns. It was Jim’s way to diffuse tension. I managed to murmur a few kind words in response and disappeared into the kitchen to find a quiet nook to be alone, even for a moment.

Every chair was taken and so I leaned against the sink near the open window, hoping to catch a stray breeze. Immediately an elder from my brother’s home church came along, wanting to know all about my missionary work. I know he had the best of intentions, but I politely excused myself after a vague answer. Elbowing my way through the hallway, I slipped out of the house and out onto my parent’s front yard.

As it was a cold April day in Alberta, I shivered as I took a few deep cleansing breaths. Looking skyward, I sent a silent plea to the Lord, yearning for something, something that I couldn’t put into words. Suddenly, my name was called and I turned around to find a dear friend just standing there. Not a word was said, but I was quickly enfolded in her arms. Another friend came alongside her to shelter us both from prying eyes. My pain was too deep for words and too deep for tears, but that simple hug gave me what I needed at that moment. The freedom to just be me in my grief. All I could say was, “I hurt.” And then they held me a while longer. Through their hugs, I received a divine infusion of love and grace that upheld me and gave me the strength to be a support to my parents until it was time for me to leave again.

If someone in your life is hurting, I encourage you to just be with them. Stay still and listen, even when their pain is too deep for words or tears. It takes courage to stay present as you witness such pain. It takes discipline to die to your own desire to fix things as you watch a loved one suffer, but they need you to allow them to just be in their grief. It takes an enormous amount of trust in the God of all compassion but if you wait for His prompting, an apt word given at the right moment will become a conduit of immense healing and comfort. Speak to the storm of your own heart, “Peace, be still” and you will carry that peace with you as a healing agent. Ask the Lord to comfort your own heart so you can draw from His well, and pour His comfort into those who grieve.

2 Corinthians 2: 3-5 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

Excerpt from “Seasons” a book I published in 2014

©2022 Katherine Walden

A handy list of where you can find me on the Internet