Give Comfort to Those Who Grieve
“Jehovah has anointed me . . . to comfort all the mourning ones.”—ISAIAH 61:1, 2.
1, 2. To whom should we give comfort, and why?
JEHOVAH, the God of all real comfort, teaches us to be concerned when others experience calamity. He teaches us to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls” and to comfort all who mourn. (1 Thessalonians 5:14) When such help is needed, we provide it for fellow worshipers. We also show love to those outside the congregation, even to those who may not have given evidence of any love for us in the past.—Matthew 5:43-48; Galatians 6:10.
2 Jesus Christ read and applied to himself the prophetic commission: “The spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah is upon me, for the reason that Jehovah has anointed me to tell good news to the meek ones. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, . . . to comfort all the mourning ones.” (Isaiah 61:1, 2; Luke 4:16-19) Modern-day anointed Christians have long recognized that this commission also applies to them, and the “other sheep” gladly join them in that work.—John 10:16.
3. When people ask, “Why does God permit calamities?,” how might we help them?
3 When disasters strike and people are left brokenhearted, they often ask, “Why does God permit calamities?” The Bible clearly answers that question. However, it may take time for someone who has not been a student of the Bible to appreciate the answer fully. Help is provided in the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses.* As a start, however, it has proved to be a comfort to some people just to see in the Bible a text such as the one found at Isaiah 61:1, 2, since it expresses God’s desire for humans to receive comfort.
4. How was a Witness in Poland able to help a distressed schoolgirl, and how can that experience help you to help others?
4 Young people, as well as older ones, need comfort. A depressed teenager in Poland asked an acquaintance for advice. With gentle probing, the friend, who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, learned that the girl was overwhelmed with questions and doubts: “Why is there so much evil? Why do people suffer? Why does my paralyzed sister suffer? Why is my heart not healthy? The Church says that God wants it so. But if this is the case, I will stop believing in him!” The Witness prayed silently to Jehovah and then said: “I am glad that you asked me about this. I will try to help you.” She related that she had her own doubts as a child and that Jehovah’s Witnesses helped her. She explained: “I learned that God does not make people suffer. He loves them, wants what is best for them, and will soon bring about major changes on the earth. Sickness, the problems of old age, and death will be gone, and obedient people will live forever—right here on this planet.” She showed the girl Revelation 21:3, 4; Job 33:25; Isaiah 35:5-7 and 65:21-25. After a long discussion, the girl said, with evident relief: “Now I know what I live for. May I come to see you again?” A Bible study was held with her twice a week.
With the Comfort God Gives
5. When we express sympathy, what will provide real comfort?
5 When we seek to comfort others, words of sympathy are certainly in order. We endeavor to convey to the grieving person by word and tone of voice that we deeply care about his situation. This is not accomplished by the use of hollow platitudes. The Bible tells us that “through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) In view of this, we can explain at a suitable time what God’s Kingdom is, and we can show from the Bible how it will solve present problems. Then we can reason on why it is a dependable hope. In this way, we will impart comfort.
6. What should we help people to appreciate so that they can get the full benefit from the comfort in the Scriptures?
6 To get the full benefit from the comfort offered, a person needs to know the true God, the kind of Person he is, and the dependability of his promises. When we seek to help a person who is not already a worshiper of Jehovah, it is good to explain the following points. (1) The comfort found in the Bible is from Jehovah, the true God. (2) Jehovah is the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth. He is a God of love and is abundant in loving-kindness and truth. (3) We can be strengthened to deal with situations if we draw close to God by gaining accurate knowledge from his Word. (4) The Bible contains scriptures that relate to specific trials faced by different individuals.
7. (a) What can be accomplished by emphasizing that the comfort God gives “abounds through the Christ”? (b) How might you comfort someone who realizes that his conduct has been bad?
7 Some have conveyed a spiritual blessing to grieving ones who are acquainted with the Bible by reading 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. When doing so, they have emphasized the expression “the comfort we get also abounds through the Christ.” This scripture may help a person to realize that the Bible is a source of comfort to which he ought to give more consideration. It can also provide the basis for further discussion, perhaps on other occasions. If a person feels that his troubles are the result of bad things he has done, then we might tell him, without being judgmental, that it is a comfort to know what is recorded at 1 John 2:1, 2 and Psalm 103:11-14. In these ways we truly comfort others with the comfort that God gives.
When Life Is Marred by Violence or Economic Hardship
8, 9. How can comfort appropriately be given to people who have suffered violence?
8 The lives of countless millions have been marred by violence—criminal violence in a community or the violence of war. How can we comfort them?
9 True Christians take care that in neither word nor deed do they take sides with one faction or the other in the world’s conflicts. (John 17:16) But they appropriately use the Bible to show that present harsh conditions will not go on forever. They may read Psalm 11:5 to show how Jehovah feels about those who love violence or Psalm 37:1-4 to point out God’s encouragement not to take it upon ourselves to repay in kind but to trust in God. The words of Psalm 72:12-14 show how the Greater Solomon, Jesus Christ, now ruling as heavenly King, feels about innocent people who suffer violence.
10. If you have lived through years of warfare, how can the cited scriptures comfort you?
10 Some people have lived through one conflict after another as contending factions fought for control. They take for granted that war and its aftermath are a part of life. The only hopeful prospect they see is that things might be better for them if they could escape to another land. But most of them never succeed in doing that, and a number who have tried have lost their lives in the attempt. Those who do get to another land often find that they have simply exchanged one set of problems for another. Psalm 146:3-6 might be used to help such people to place their hope in something more reliable than emigrating. The prophecy at Matthew 24:3, 7, 14 or 2 Timothy 3:1-5 might help them to see the bigger picture and the meaning of the conditions they are enduring, namely, that we are living in the conclusion of the old system of things. Such texts as Psalm 46:1-3, 8, 9 and Isaiah 2:2-4 might help them to realize that there truly is hope for a peaceful future.
11. What texts comforted a woman in West Africa, and why?
11 During a period of ongoing war in West Africa, a woman fled from her home under a hail of bullets. Her life came to be filled with fear, sadness, and heartbreaking disappointment. Later, while the family was living in another country, her husband decided to burn their marriage certificate, send away his then pregnant wife and their ten-year-old son, and become a priest. When Philippians 4:6, 7 and Psalm 55:22 were shared with her, along with Scriptural articles from The Watchtower and Awake!, she at last found comfort and a purpose in life.
12. (a) What relief do the Scriptures offer to those who are hard-pressed economically? (b) How was a Witness in Asia able to help a customer?
12 Economic ruin has spoiled the lives of many millions of people. Sometimes this too is because of war and its aftermath. At other times, unwise government policies and greed and dishonesty by those in power have combined to wipe out savings and have forced people to forfeit their possessions. Others have never had many of this world’s goods. All such can be comforted to know that God assures relief for those who trust in him and guarantees a righteous world in which people will enjoy the work of their hands. (Psalm 146:6, 7; Isaiah 65:17, 21-23; 2 Peter 3:13) When a Witness in one Asian land heard a customer express anxious concern over the economic situation there, she explained that what was happening there was part of a pattern of events occurring around the world. A discussion of Matthew 24:3-14 and Psalm 37:9-11 led to a regular Bible study.
13. (a) When people have been disappointed by empty promises, how might we use the Bible to help them? (b) If people feel that bad conditions prove that there is no God, how might you endeavor to reason with them?
13 When people have suffered for many years or have been disappointed by many hollow promises, they may be like the Israelites in Egypt who “out of discouragement” did not listen. (Exodus 6:9) In such cases, it may be beneficial to highlight ways in which the Bible can help them to cope successfully with present problems and to avoid pitfalls that needlessly spoil life for many. (1 Timothy 4:8b) Some may view the bad conditions they live under as proof that there is no God or that he does not care about them. You might reason on appropriate scriptures to help them to realize that God has provided help but many have not accepted it.—Isaiah 48:17, 18.
When Faced With Storms and Earthquakes
14, 15. When one disaster left many in a state of shock, how did Jehovah’s Witnesses show their concern?
14 Disaster may strike as a result of a storm, an earthquake, a fire, or an explosion. Grief may be widespread. What can be done to bring comfort to survivors?
15 People need to know that someone cares. After a terrorist attack in one country, many were left in a state of shock. A number of them lost family members, breadwinners, friends, employment, or whatever sense of security they thought they had. Jehovah’s Witnesses reached out to those in their communities, expressing sympathy for their great losses and offering words of comfort from the Bible. Many deeply appreciated the concern.
16. When disaster struck a region in El Salvador, why was the field service of local Witnesses very effective?
16 In El Salvador a strong earthquake in 2001 was followed by a massive mud slide that claimed many lives. The 25-year-old son of a Witness and two sisters of the son’s fiancée were killed. The mother of the young man along with his fiancée promptly got busy in the field service. Many said to them that it was God who took those who died or that it was God’s will. The Witnesses quoted Proverbs 10:22 to show that God does not want us to have pain. They read Romans 5:12 to show that death was brought through the sin of man, not because it is the will of God. They also pointed to the message of comfort found at Psalm 34:18, Psalm 37:29, Isaiah 25:8, and Revelation 21:3, 4. People readily listened, especially since the two women themselves had lost family members in the disaster, and many Bible studies were started.
17. In times of disaster, what kinds of help may we give?
17 When disaster strikes, you may encounter someone who is in need of immediate physical help. This may involve calling a doctor, helping a person to get to a clinic, or doing whatever is possible to provide food and shelter. In 1998 during one such disaster in Italy, a journalist observed that Jehovah’s Witnesses “operate in a practical way, holding out a hand to those who suffer, without worrying about which religion they belong to.” In some areas, events prophesied for the last days cause great suffering. In those places, Jehovah’s Witnesses point out the Bible prophecies, and they comfort people with the Bible’s assurance that the Kingdom of God will bring true security to mankind.—Proverbs 1:33; Micah 4:4.
When a Family Member Has Died
18-20. When there has been a death in a family, what might you say or do to bring comfort?
18 Every day millions of people grieve over the death of a loved one. You may meet those who mourn when you are sharing in the Christian ministry or when caring for the affairs of daily life. What can you say or do that will bring comfort?
19 Is the person in emotional turmoil? Is the house filled with grieving relatives? There may be much that you would like to say, but discretion is important. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7) Perhaps the fitting thing is to express sympathy, leave an appropriate Bible publication (a brochure, a magazine, or a tract), and then call after a few days to see whether further help can be given. At a suitable time, offer to share some encouraging thoughts from the Bible. This can have a calming and healing effect. (Proverbs 16:24; 25:11) You cannot raise the dead, as Jesus did. But you can share what the Bible says about the condition of the dead, though this may not be the time to try to refute wrong views. (Psalm 146:4; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Ezekiel 18:4) You can read together the Bible’s promises regarding the resurrection. (John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15) You might discuss what these mean, possibly using a Biblical report of a resurrection to do so. (Luke 8:49-56; John 11:39-44) Also draw attention to the qualities of the loving God who gives us such a hope. (Job 14:14, 15; John 3:16) Explain how these teachings have benefited you and why you have confidence in them.
20 An invitation to the Kingdom Hall may help the grieving one to get to know people who truly love their neighbors and who know how to build one another up. A woman in Sweden found that this is what she had been looking for all her life.—John 13:35; 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
21, 22. (a) What is required of us if we are to give comfort? (b) How can you give comfort to someone who already knows the Scriptures well?
21 When you know that someone is experiencing grief, whether inside the Christian congregation or outside, do you at times feel unsure about what to say or do? The Greek word often rendered “comfort” in the Bible literally means “a calling to one’s side.” Being a true comforter implies making yourself available to those who are grieving.—Proverbs 17:17.
22 What if the person you want to comfort already knows what the Bible says about death, the ransom, and the resurrection? The very presence of a friend who shares the same beliefs can be comforting. If he wants to talk, be a good listener. Do not feel that you need to give a speech. If scriptures are read, treat these as expressions of God that strengthen the hearts of both of you. Express the strong conviction that both of you have in the certainty of what they promise. By reflecting godly compassion and by sharing the precious truths contained in God’s Word, you can help those who are grieving to draw consolation and strength from “the God of all comfort,” Jehovah.—2 Corinthians 1:3.
See the books Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, chapter 8; Reasoning From the Scriptures, pages 393-400, 427-31; Is There a Creator Who Cares About You?, chapter 10; and the brochure Does God Really Care About Us?
What Is Your Comment?
• Whom do many people blame for calamities, and how can we help them?
• What might we do to help others to benefit fully from the comfort that the Bible offers?
• What situations are bringing grief to many in your area, and how can you comfort them?
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Sharing a message of real comfort in times of distress
Refugee camp: UN PHOTO 186811/J. Isaac
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The very presence of a friend can be comforting