Show Me How to Comfort

Dearest readers, please join me in welcoming my friend, Robin Horne, to the Kindred Spirit blog as she encourages us to comfort others in their times of need. Robin is a gifted elementary school teacher, blogger, and Christian writer. I hope you enjoy her guest post today!

In “Day 29: Look with Compassion,” from Rachel’s book Praying with Jane, Jane’s prayer says, “Look with compassion upon the afflicted of every condition, assuage the pangs of disease, comfort the broken in spirit.” Also in that section, the prayer from “Let Us Pray” encourages us to ask the Lord to “Show me how to comfort and care for them with your love. Give me your words to encourage them.”

I have to admit that’s a prayer I’ve not often prayed. I’ve asked God to comfort others…but I’ve not really been asking Him to show me how I can do so in a way that’s applicable to everyday situations. When it comes to helping others who are going through tough times and I could offer meals, gifts, or kind words spoken in person, I often seem to flounder. I question if my help is wanted, or even needed. I wonder if what I have to give is good enough.  

So during the times I find that I have the impulse to help, to do something…I tend to stop myself just short of taking the plunge. I don’t reach out because of my fears. However, I’m beginning to believe that those things I’ve been telling myself are lies. So many people have been such a comfort to me…I know what it is to be encouraged and comforted. How can I not try do the same for others?

Today, I found myself choosing differently.

I took my spry six-month-old yellow Lab puppy to the vet because she got a piece of a twig stuck deep in her skin just above her eye. (The dangers of playing fetch with bushes nearby.) She’s a squirrely thing; I knew she’d be fine, but I needed help getting the piece out.

Waiting for her turn, my pup, Carly, wriggled happily and gave a healthy, tongue-wagging hello to everyone who walked into the office. Her youth was infectious; she brought smiles to everyone’s faces, even to the faces of the family that eventually sat across from us while they waited for their dog to get some tests done. Worry had settled in the lines between their brows as they sat silently. The room had become heavy with their arrival.

I recognized the mom of the family from somewhere, but I did not know where. After chatting a little. we realized we’d seen each other around because we both worked in education. We exchanged names across the waiting room, and they all began to laugh out loud when Carly tried to eat the trash can liners, the seat cushions, and the dog scale tucked in the corner.

After several minutes, their handsome senior, Boxer, was slowly escorted back down the dim hallway on his tall legs. He stopped and looked in on us with large, brown solemn eyes before he let the tech walk him into the examining room. The family quieted again and then they stood and filed back into the room one by one, barely fitting in. That dear old dog was loved for sure.

The veterinarian was the last one to go in. I watched as he paused in front of the closed door with his head down. He took a deep breath, then walked in and shut the door. Bless his heart for having the courage every day to give families such sad news. My hope for their dog sank, and even Carly sat still and looked around panting as if she knew something was wrong.

When they came back out again, it was clear that their sweet dog had little time left here on Earth. I overheard the details as they asked further questions at the counter and made plans for his last visit, and while they wrapped up the appointment, that familiar war of doubt rose up within me. My heart that loves felt compelled to give the woman a hug. She stood at the counter, barely able to ask her questions, her eyes red-rimmed and wet with tears.

“You can’t hug her. You don’t even know her,” those pesky old warnings whispered. But on this day, a stronger thought cut through my worry. A gentle reminder:

“Show me how to comfort and care for them with your love.”

I knew what it felt like to go through what she was going through. And I remembered how much it meant to me when people who cared reached out to try to comfort me when I had to say goodbye to my last dog two years ago. My old chocolate Lab meant the world to me—she was family. Now it was my turn to be a comforter…if I could just be brave enough.

What was the worst that could happen? She might shrug me off. She might tell me to leave her alone. But my soul knew her heart was breaking, and when my heart is breaking, a hug has the power to hold the fragile broken pieces of my soul together, even if just for a moment. I asked the Lord for guidance, holding my breath until I heard His answer.

As she turned to leave the office, my feet found themselves flying across the white linoleum floor. I wrapped my arms around her, and…you know what? She held on tightly for the longest time, this woman that I didn’t know.

Someone told me a long time ago, “Never be the first to let go when you hug someone. Give them as long as they need.” So I held on. As we broke apart, we looked at each other with tears in our eyes. I told her how sorry I was. I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again, but I do know this: I don’t regret reaching out to comfort her.

And I know I’ll be braver the next time I have the opportunity to lend a hand or an ear or a meal.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be thinking about the Boxer family and their heartache. I’ll be praying for them, hoping they find some joy in their last days with their beloved companion, even though their time is short. And in the future, I’ll be praying I am bold enough to take action whenever I see someone else who needs to be comforted or encouraged….looking to see how I can be an ambassador of God’s love. It’s what we’re called to do.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV)

If you enjoyed Robin’s guest article and want to read more of her writing, you can visit her at Encourage Your Heart.

Can you relate to Robin’s feelings of doubt in that moment? I sure can! Do you have a similar story to share? Please let us know in the comments below. Robin and I would love to hear from you and encourage you!

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