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What We Need To Ask Each Other


Disclaimer: no one was harmed in the making of this blog post

There is a question that I believe can transform our relationships, a question we need to all ask each other more:

How can I comfort you?

Above all, remember “if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves…Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself.” (Philippians 2)

It is the comfort God has lavished on us that calls us to comfort others. Because of the pain we’ve felt, we no longer have to be strangers to the pain of another. When we choose to walk through the difficult times with Him by surrendering our ego and emptying ourself, we can receive the tenderness and gentleness of His healing presence. When we experience the power within His humility that invites, the power within His soft touch that had no fear in gently touching the blind or lame, nor writing carefully in the sand to help another; we will know how to comfort others out of our own ache.

Yet how often do I ask my loved ones how they need to be comforted? How often do I wonder how they receive comfort best? How often do I pay attention to learn which actions or words resonate deeply with them and which don’t? How often am I quick to comfort those in my life in the way I like to be comforted, neglecting that they are not me? Comfort has a language of its own and there is something undeniably powerful in a friend who knows how to speak the language of comfort that your soul understands, like feeling that everything you lost in the pain is coming back to you.

“The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are.”  Stephen Covey

I still remember the day I found out that I had to withdraw from medical school. I remember wanting nothing more than to run from the torment of failure as I felt the foundation that I had built my dreams, hopes and even identity crumble. That was the same day I tasted comfort, like the Promised Land dripping of milk and honey in the midst of a wilderness, in a way I had never known before.

My friend stayed with me, cried with me, wrapped me in a red blanket and sang Psalm 13 to me.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?…But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lordbecause he has dealt bountifully with me.” 

Divine comfort took on flesh in my friend’s faithfulness to stay. This Psalm embodies the true unsurpassed beauty of comfort. Though it may not change our circumstances, though it may not take away the pain, it strengthens our heart to praise in defiance of the moment. True comfort is a fortress against wailing winds and the fearful elements of disaster that threaten to swallow our home. Because my friend stayed, I know that it takes an embrace and a shirt to stain with mascara and tears, to remember to breathe, find a moment to be still – just like that, I settle, soften and make space for the pain. The harsh voice of judgement drops to a whisper and I remember again that as much as I want to stop the madness and control the chaos, I can ask for the grace to let go through the healing found in comfort. Together with those who are long-suffering enough to bear our burdens, who choose to decrease as He increases in them by comforting us, we walk slowly into the mystery. The mystery that more than answers or solutions people desire comfort. More than fleeing from a broken and contrite heart, refusing the suffering, God desires our surrender. Surrender is not defeat, but victory. To learn how to comfort and to be willing to receive comfort from one another is how we win.

“You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other…instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace.” St Seraphim of Sarov

Sometimes comfort comes to us in unexpected packages; His is the gift of his own life within us, sharing His own joy and love in the midst of the confusion and anxiety that encloses us, in the midst of all the ways we try to escape from the pain outside of His life in us.

With His life in me, I am given a choice, to waste my pain and the pain of others or to give and accept comfort freely. And so as with all of life, it is always choices such as these that determine where we are going and how our own journey moulds us and influences those around us. It is a choice to be a healing presence to others. With this choice, pray to be sensitive to how the person before you longs to be comforted. Be brave enough to give sacrificially to meet each other’s need to be comforted and to ask: how can I comfort you?

"Love is not contingent on our wholeness. Love is with us in our shame, our fear, our weakness, and is with us through it. And Love has the final word"

“Love is not contingent on our wholeness. Love is with us in our shame, our fear, our weakness, and is with us through it. And Love has the final word”

What does it mean to become a healing presence? And probably more important, how do we increase our ability to do that? I think already you can see that this definition is an operational definition for love delivered; love on the street; love in our lives; love with each other.

Let’s look at what a healing presence is. It means that when someone, you or me or some other human, has done something to give me strength or hope. And you might ask in your life recently, who in your life did give you strength or hope when you felt in need a little? And what were the ingredients of that? How was that done? That’s the way we learn how to do that for each other. It means that I do something and give someone else what Christ gives through me. Grace has a life of its own. And in that sense, healing can become contagious. Others feel it, experience, and see it, and then perhaps do it a little more themselves.

Christ is our physician; our complete healer. And He wants us to be His humanity on this earth for each other, to the extent that we can. We’re His healing presence for each other or not. We are a healing presence to others when we give them strength; we have an encounter with them. We give them strength when we give them hope. They leave us, whether it’s a very brief or a sustained encounter, with strength and hope.”

Albert Rossi

Sandra
About me

Hi there! My name is Sandra and you’ll most likely find me listening to music and getting lost in a book.

I grew up in California but I’ve lived most of my life in England which is why you’ll never really be able to work out my accent (sorry!) Those that know me, know I’ll never say no to a family-size bag of Hot Cheetos or pistachio ice cream, some would even say it’s the way to my heart (they would be right). I make sure never to leave home without my trusty Tide pen because I’m absolutely stain-prone! I’m deeply passionate about stain removal, but I’m talking about the kind of “stains” like broken relationships and sexual struggles.

Someone once told me that God covers those stains with patches of grace. I like that image because I imagine myself as one of those patchwork quilts worn right through. Each patch of grace has a story to tell; a story of heartbreak and redemption. What Christ has done and what my great privilege to do for others, is to rework the fabric where it has stained. Nothing makes me come alive more than those moments of true, genuine conversations, when we let each other in to see the stains and together we choose to stay and love through the stains. From our encounters to our most intimate relationships I pray our patchwork may tell the story of creating a safe place for each other where we are loved fearless. So I try, though I’ve failed often and continue to do so, to live out of authenticity, hospitality and vulnerability, never ceasing to forget that when I’m worn out, worn thin and have nothing to bring Him; my empty earthen vessel is the place He can fill with His all-surpassing power.

He is my exceedingly, abundantly.

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2 Comments

Sara M
Reply March 28, 2016

Thank you so much for this Sandra. Convicting, spirit-filled and beautifully written :)

    Sandra
    Reply March 28, 2016

    Thanks for your kind words Sarah! Miss you!

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