“Everything is going to be ok.” Have you heard those words before, spoken to you by someone trying to comfort you? There are a lot of one-liners out there meant to encourage or comfort us…however, those are just words. Time and time again when i have been down or just need a boost, i have heard, “hang in there, things are going to get better.” Even though they are right, things eventually got better, those were not the words i needed to hear. What i needed at the time was someone to empathize with me.
Empathy is defined this way by Websters Dictionary, “the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” i needed someone to say, “you know what that does suck, and i can only imagine what you are going through. Life sure can be unfair.” Empathy is far more comforting than some of our most uplifting sayings. Matthew records Jesus’ sermon on the mount in Chapter 5, where Jesus says, “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Maybe this is where we get our over need to comfort those going through seemingly difficult times.
There are so many passages in scripture that bring comfort when one is ready to hear them…but there is a mourning period. Traditionally, looking at Scripture as our root, the mourning period lasted 7 days, with some exceptions of 30 days. For this period of mourning, there was crying, lamenting, tearing of clothes, folks did not groom themselves during the time of mourning either. Traditional readings stopped as well during this period, along with celebrations and work. True mourning was a shared experience of the grief-stricken, empathy. There is something very comforting knowing that one is not walking alone, crying alone, alone.
There is a time when mourning ends. The mourner then moves on the best they can in light of the tragedy they just came. It is at this point we offer the encouragement to continue on, move on, and press on, come into play. Certainly not before or during mourning. The most comforting thing you can do when someone is greaving is to be present, be available, cry with them, lament with them, don’t try to be the fixer, just be. When the period of mourning is over, then begin to encourage them. In Job when his friends first got on the scene they responded perfectly, “When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.” Job 2:12-13
The first part of getting through a difficult time is mourning. The best way to comfort a person in mourning is to empathize with them, more than mere words, live life with them in their shoes, their feelings, their sorrow. Earn the right to encourage them at the right time through your empathizing cries.
You are Loved,