When Comforting Turns Selfish

The Gospel Coalition | 6/11/2018 | Staff
TimHyuga (Posted by) Level 3
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A family recently lost their young child.

At the funeral, a well-meaning friend says, “Isn’t it comforting to know that God is using her death for good?”

Mother - Stares - Nods - Friend - Comfort

The mother stares, nods stiffly, and resolves not to reach out to that friend for comfort in the future.

Have you ever wondered why Christians, who should be the most compassionate people on the planet, can say such unhelpful things when hardship hits? We have a whole Bible full of promises that God will redeem terrible situations, and these sentiments should be comforting; but we can often wield them at the wrong time, out of discomfort or fear. In the process we further wound the people we’re trying to help.

Platitudes - Courage - Evil - Suffering - Fact

Instead of trying to paste over evil with biblical platitudes, we must have the courage to acknowledge that evil and suffering are real. We must respect the fact that God’s redemption is often mysterious. Only then can we apply God’s promises to suffering people in a compassionate and loving way.

Blurting out clichés in the face of pain isn’t a uniquely Christian problem. Suffering is uncomfortable and awkward for everyone, and comforters say positive things to try and bring relief as fast as possible. For believers, it’s tempting to use biblical promises this way. I have wonderful promises from God, we think. Surely these will help them zip through their agony. And surely they’ll zip even faster if I apply them to their specific situation. So we start speculating exactly how God is using this situation for good:

God - Suffering - Cancer

“You can glorify God through your suffering with this cancer!”

“Maybe you keep having miscarriages because God is calling you to adopt!”

Marriage - Platform - Ministry - Others

“Your abusive marriage has given you such a platform for ministry to others!”

But do not these statements also arise from a deeper fear? If God let this horrible thing happen to...
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