We’ve all experienced walking with a friend as they face an immense sadness. It’s never easy to know what to do next. Do they need us? Do they need to be alone? We feel uncertain about what to say and what to do.
If we’re realistic about our feelings in the whole thing, we just feel uncomfortable with grief because we can’t fix our friends.
But there’s more to comforting our friends than just hoping to say the right thing or hoping we don’t make them cry. There’s a much sweeter, more beautiful mission here than giving them space.
The call to comfort the broken hearted is a call to reflect Jesus so that they remember he is with them in their sorrow.
But how do we do this? Here are few simple things to consider…
Be A Safe Person For Sorrow
This is the part that feels the most difficult. We naturally don’t want our friends to stay sad. We wait and hope that they’ll “get better” so we can comfortably sit and talk to them.
But that’s not ministry, is it?
What someone really needs in grief is a friend who is safe to fall apart with at any time. Grieving people are surrounded by memories of someone they loved, and we need to be ready for their tears. We need to be ready to stay near when the sorrow surfaces, and not look for a chance to run.
This brings true comfort to a broken heart and gives the grieving person a reflection of the Lord Jesus, who is near to them.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Jesus was a man of sorrows who knew what it was to grieve (Isaiah 53:3). He is near to our friends in the moments that they can’t hold it together. He doesn’t wait to see if they they’re having a strong day to meet with them, and neither should we.
When we are safe for their sorrow, we are reminding them that Jesus is near.
Serve Them Even When They Don’t Ask
We want to help our grieving friends in practical ways and in ways that bring healing. Often we ask, “How can I help you right now?” This is a good question and it shows our heart to love them, but grief is distracting and mind-numbing.
There’s a good chance our friends don’t know how to express what they need, and there’s an even greater chance they feel their needs are too burdensome. So we must be brave and creative.
We must decide to bring the meal. We must decide to bring the pot of coffee and to open up picture albums. They can’t be the one to ask for prayer. Rather, you must be the one to volunteer to pray with them. In some ways, you provide them with a sort of strength when they are in an ocean of weakness.
This reminds them of truths like Psalm 22:19:
But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
When we decide to serve our friends who are grieving, even when they don’t know how to ask for help, we show them that Jesus is a strength that comes quickly to serve them in weakness.
Remember The Things Precious to Them
Our grieving friends have a long road ahead full of anniversaries and memories, and carrying those alone can feel heavy.
When we come alongside and remember with them, the memories can be sweet.
I personally can testify to this. When my son passed away and we were creeping up on his one month anniversary of his death, I received a letter. It was so simple, containing only the words, “Remembering with you that Haddon was with us just one month ago.” Reading this was life-giving.
Someone carried this memory with me, and I was able to remember with joy.
This reflects the savior who knows the details of our lives and cares about what is happening inside our hearts.
O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
Will we do any of these perfectly? No. But grief is no stranger to Jesus, and he knows how to perfectly walk alongside our friends. We can trust him and be the friends who reflect Jesus in the ways we comfort those in sorrow.