I have been thinking lately about how to comfort people who are going though hard times. Obviously I'm talking about comforting believers because an unbeliever has no hope; Apart from the gospel all we can do is heal their wounds lightly saying peace peace when there is no peace. No I am talking about fellow believers who for whatever reason are going through difficult times. What needs to be said? what do they need? Well we know we are to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep, but what about beyond that? what do they need to hear? Listen to what one of the reformers said in a letter to a wife who's husband was captured in war,
"If the sorrow which the capture of your husband has caused you has been painful and bitter, I trust nevertheless, that you have in part recognized by the effects which it has produced that God has sent you this affliction only for your good and spiritual welfare, and this consideration it is which ought to mitigate you distress, and render you patient and submissive to the will of God. For it is consoling to recognize that not only He tries our faith, but also that, in withdrawing us from the allurements and delights of the world which deceive us, He also lets us taste His bounty and feel His aid, by gathering us as it were under His wings, that we may say with David that our supreme good is to cleave to Him."
If something like this was said today it would be considered insensitive, inhuman, and rude. But men such as the one who wrote this letter believed that the Word of God was sufficient to provide solace in times of trouble. They believed that the Word of God was the only true Balm of Gilead that would bring healing to a hurting soul. But what is the goal in giving comfort to others? Is it to build a person up in the flesh so they feel better for a while and sink back into sorrow? Is the overarching goal even to comfort the person? We know of course that our over arching goal of all we do is to bring glory to Gods name and to bring about a heart of praise towards God in others.
It is common even among Christians to doubt God or even despise Him in hard times.
There is time for grave mourning, there is a time for intense weeping, there is even a time to humbly ask God why the hardship has fallen upon us, And we are called to weep right along side the mourning and share in their sorrow. We are also to make sure that those suffering, be it a friend or even ourselves do not fall into the pit of selfishness and self pity. What a tragedy it would be if in comforting someone we allow the name of God to be brought low. There is not a time to doubt God, there is not a time to despise the choices God makes in our life to make us more like Him.
He it is who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23 who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
The truth of Gods word can be hard to hear especially when going through trials. But just as you had to understand some terribly dark things concerning the filth of your sin and what happened on the cross before you could experience the fullness of Gods love and compassion. In the same way you must understand some things that are hard for your sinful autonomously minded flesh to hear before you can receive biblical solace.
God is mainly concerned with getting glory for himself, that is the truth, and God is most glorified when we are satisfied in Him.