‘Therefore comfort one another with these words.’ 1 Thessalonians 4:18 NKJV
A well known pastor once planned to attend the funeral of an acquaintance and, by mistake, ended up at the wrong funeral parlour. The body of an elderly man was laid out, and his widow was the only mourner there. She seemed so lonely, he stayed for the funeral and then accompanied her to the cemetery. After the committal service, as they were driving away, he confessed that he hadn’t actually known the lady’s husband. ‘I thought so,’ she replied. ‘I didn’t recognise you. But it doesn’t matter. You’ll never, ever, know what this means to me.’
Philip Yancey writes: ‘Simple availability is the most powerful force we can contribute… We rightly disparage Job’s three friends for their insensitive response to his suffering. But read the account again: “When they came, they sat in silence beside Job for seven days before opening their mouths”…those were the most eloquent moments they spent with him. Instinctively I shrink back from people in pain. Who knows if they want to talk about their predicament or not? Do they want to be consoled or cheered up? What good can my presence possibly do? My mind spins out these rationalisations and as a result I end up doing the worst thing possible: I stay away… No one offers the name of a philosopher when I ask, “Who helped you the most?” Most often they describe a quiet, unassuming person… who was there… who listened more than they talked, who didn’t keep glancing down at a watch, who hugged and touched, and cried… someone who was available and came on the sufferer’s terms, not their own.’
That’s how you minister to others.