By the Rev. Laura Di Panfilo
When friends or family members face suffering or loss, it can be challenging to know what words to say to help console them. Have you ever been in a situation where the words of others did not help you? Whenever I am stressed, I am not particularly thankful to hear, “you should relax!” from someone else. Maybe you have been told something unhelpful in your past too. Many of these seemingly trite statements are not said from a place of malice, but rather they reflect the challenge of helping others. As Christians, how does our faith inform our pastoral care?
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 the early church in Corinth is told, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” Here we see that God is our comfort and consolation. God cares about our suffering and desires to meet us in these spaces of despair. And this passage shows us that just as God meets us, we are to go to those who hurt. Just as we are consoled by Christ we must offer this care towards others.
In all seasons of life, we can offer other people pastoral care. Here are three guiding principles to help us in our efforts:
As Christians, we are called to sit with others in their loss and suffering. It is not always easy work, but as the scripture reminds us, we do not do this work alone: God goes before, with, and after us.