Early in my ministry—in fact, during my internship year—one of my responsibilities was calling on the “shut-ins” of our congregation who found it difficult to get out of their homes because of age, medical condition or other incapacities. I was very nervous and unsure of myself during the early days of this pastoral responsibility. I wanted to offer comfort to these parishioners but was uncomfortable about the whole process of such visitation. On this particular day I was feeling very inadequate and apprehensive about the list of calls and sort of overwhelmed by the day’s schedule—knowing that my day might be long and intense.
My first call was to an elderly woman who was recovering from a surgery that was going to keep her home bound for a lengthy period of months. As I knocked on the screen door of her neat little cottage (it was summer and open doors allowed for cooling and better ventilation in those days), I hear a very cheerful, “Come in!”
As I entered, she sat on her sofa wearing a broad and welcoming smile. I introduced myself as this was my first time visiting with her. I asked her how she was doing. “Just fine,” she replied. She then proceeded to show me how the sunrise and sunset played upon her front room and how the light made her feel each day. She went on to tell me about her life and all the plans she had made for herself, given her injuries and subsequent surgery and afterward. She told of exciting visits to foreign lands and how wonderful the people were in those various countries. She spoke of a new hobby she had started and how anxious she was to work on it again. She was like a bubbling brook of refreshing spring water to my anxious soul! When I left her home, I thanked her for blessing me with her enthusiasm and love of life.
How was it that someone who appeared to need comforting was actually able to comfort me? In what appeared to be an uncomfortable circumstance, this woman was able to rise above her situation and comfort me with unexpected blessings. It seems this kind lady had learned a truth that the Apostle Paul expressed in his letter to the Corinthians, when he referred to God as: “The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corintians 1:3-4)
Have you ever needed comfort and found the best help came from someone who has “been there”? Have you ever experienced difficulties in your life and are now better equipped to come to the aid of another and bear another’s burdens? There are times when God allows us to be strengthened in the arena of mutual difficulties and/or be prepared to offer support and comfort to our neighbor in need. Have you ever endured a difficult time in your life and been comforted by God’s blessing through someone else? Are you better equipped now to partner with “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” in blessing someone you know who needs comforting?
Clearly, as I learned that day early in my ministry, there are such people out there—who will lighten your life with their spirit, attitudes, and faith. And as I learned that day, God sends them to you at the right times, when you most need them. By God’s grace we are blessed by these people. By God’s mercy we can be such a person to others. May we be such a blessing as we continue to learn to comfort one another in the compassion of God’s love.