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Let me come in where you are weeping, friend,
And let me take your hand.
(Grace Noll Crowell)
LIFE IS HARD, AND IF WE HAVE THE EYES TO SEE, WE SEE ALL AROUND US PEOPLE NEEDING COMFORT. The sources of discomfort are as numerous and varied as the people who are hurting, but the end result is much the same: people need comfort. Considering the vastness of the need, it may be discouraging to think how little difference for good any of us can make in alleviating the suffering that’s in the world. But the vastness of the need may not be the thing we need to concentrate on. Wouldn’t it be better to concentrate on those few individuals whom we can comfort? In their lives, at least, we can make a difference, and they deserve that we give it our best effort.
Grief. Many of those who need our comfort are those who are grieving the loss of something valuable to them. Whether it’s a loved one they’ve lost, or something else (such as a relationship, a hope, or a dream), it hurts to lose things. Grieving people need our comfort.
Hardship. If there are sorrowful things in the world, there are also difficult things that have to be dealt with. And while the need for comfort during hardship may not be as poignant as the same need during grief, it’s no less real. Struggling people need our comfort.
Fear. When people don’t know what’s going to happen, but they suspect it’s not going to be good, fear is the emotion that results. And fear, in its many forms, can be one of life’s most debilitating and dehumanizing experiences. Frightened people need our comfort.
Our word “comfort” comes from the same root as the word “fortify.” Its literal meaning is “to strengthen.” I believe it does us good to recognize the strengthening, fortifying power of comfort. To comfort someone is a truly remarkable thing. When we comfort, we often do no less than pull the comforted one back from the brink of despair, or even of death. It’s a doable thing, and we need to do it more often.
“Those who can sit in silence with their fellowman, not knowing what to say but knowing that they should be there, can bring new life in a dying heart. Those who are not afraid to hold a hand in gratitude, to shed tears in grief, and to let a sigh of distress arise straight from the heart can break through paralyzing boundaries and witness the birth of a new fellowship, the fellowship of the broken” (Henri J. M. Nouwen).