Over a year ago I received a crushing text message from one of our elders. It read, “Sadie went to be with the Lord.” Sadie was his sixteen month old daughter. She had been perfectly healthy, but after a seizure following Halloween, she was diagnosed with leukemia. I received the text informing me of her death four days before Christmas. Just like that she was gone. Sadie had a rare form of leukemia that aggressively attacked her body, and devastated her family. I gathered my family together and shared the news. We cried together, and prayed for the Davis family. Afterwards, I went to the family.
As a lead pastor for the last eight years, I have counseled and comforted grieving individuals in all circumstances, but this was by far the most difﬁcult. As I consider the situations and circumstances we pastors are commonly in, I began thinking about a tool or strategy that could be helpful for comforting grieving families and individuals. I put it in the form of an acronym, B.L.E.S.S.
B – BE physically present.
I know it is impossible for us to be at every crisis, but brothers, letʼs not allow the rare times we are unable to get with grieving members serve as the rule for distancing ourselves from physically present ministry. Can phone calls and text messages be encouraging and helpful? Yes. But if you have a family in a crisis or grief, our physical presence can be such a comfort and act of love toward them. Yes, this means our routines, plans, and prescheduled activities may get sidetracked, but we must be willing to be interrupted for the sake of comforting the hurting ﬂock of our Master. We may fear the awkwardness, silence, or devastating pain that awaits us upon arrival, but letʼs move beyond our own discomforts as we consider the magnitude of theirs.
L – LISTEN to them.
One of biggest mistakes we make in pastoral care is when we arrive on the scene and begin talking. We do not have to storm in like Kramer to ﬁx anything or dish out solutions like a Pez dispenser. One of the most important things we can do is listen. Listen to their hurt, confusion, and questions. Sometimes those who are hurting are still trying to process emotions and feelings. Often times they are without words to describe how they feel. It is perfectly ﬁne to ask a few questions, “How are you guys holding up?” “What is the most difﬁcult right now?” “How can I/we (the church) help you?” All these questions and others are certainly permissible, but we must not act like new journalist interviewers. We must take time to listen to what they are saying and observing how they are handling the situation. Pray for God to give you ears to hear the cries of His people and understand where they are emotionally and spiritually.
E – EMPATHIZE with their pain.
One of the most helpful things we can learn to do as pastors, and as Christians for that matter, is empathizing with people. To empathize with someone is to feel and experience with them what they are feeling and experiencing. It is to place ourselves in their shoes. After I received the news from our elder about his daughter, in an instant I thought about my children and how crushed I would be if I lost them; I was crushed. They were not forced tears. They were the tears of someone who was feeling along with this family what they were feeling. This is what it means to live out Romans 12:15 when we are exhorted to “rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” Sometimes the greatest comfort to a grieving family is for us to grieve alongside them.
S – SHARE a passage of Scripture.
As pastors we should ﬁrst and foremost be Bible people. The Word is our wisdom, not any sort of pop psychology. The suffering saints need the promises of their Father to stabilize and comfort them in their hurts. One of the most practical ways as a pastor for us to do this is memorizing a few passages that may be used when we are in these types of situations. I have found three passages incredibly useful: Psalm 46:1; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Isaiah 41:10. Each of these passages offer different wording of the central promise of Godʼs nearness, faithfulness, and all-sufﬁcient grace as we suffer. Memorize passages like this so you may be armed to offer life-giving, soul-feeding truths in times of crisis.
S – SAY a prayer for them.
Never leave a family simply with a promise to pray for them, pray there with them. Ask God to comfort them; plead His mercy over them. Thank God for His goodness, even in trials. Thank Him for his faithfulness to them. Pray the Scripture you shared. Remind them of Godʼs nearness in their bitter providence. Whatever you do, donʼt leave until you petition the Father of all grace on their behalf.
May the Chief Shepherd guide you as you seek to B.L.E.S.S. the sheep through their trials, griefs, and pains.
photo credit: pennstatenews via photopin cc
A Prayer for Comfort When You’re Grieving
By Christina Fox
“Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice” (Psalm 55:17).
The book of Psalms contains poems that were used in the Israelite’s worship. There were many different types of Psalms, some were sung in thanksgiving for something God had done. Others were sung to remember things from the past. Some Psalms were sung in praise to God for who he is. And then there were the Laments, the darkest of all the Psalms. These songs were sung to express the sorrows and fears of life in this fallen world.
The Psalms of Lament are filled with questions. These are not the silly questions we might ask Siri or the how-to questions we might enter in a search engine, but they are the questions of a broken heart. They are the questions of one who is weighed down by the sorrows of this world, by the fears, griefs, and heartaches that we all experience.
On this side of the cross, we know that Jesus fulfilled the Psalms, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). Jesus is the answer to every heart’s cry. He came to rescue and redeem us from our greatest fear and our deepest sorrow—eternal death and separation from God because of our sin. By his perfect life and sacrificial death, he made a way for us to come into God’s presence wrapped in his righteousness. Because of Christ, we can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Here is a prayer, taken from the lamenting Psalms, that you can pray if you need God’s comfort:
I come before you today with a heavy heart. Sadness overwhelms me. I feel surrounded by a dense fog that I fear will never lift. Like David, “my tears have been my food day and night” (Psalm 42:3).
For however long this season of sorrow lasts, I pray that you would show me more of your love and grace. Help me not to run from whatever you want to do in my heart. Help me to trust that you are at work and to rest in your faithfulness. I want to say along with David, “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul” (Psalm 31:7).
Father, grant me gospel joy; help me to rejoice in Christ even as I grieve. Envelope me with the peace and comfort only you can provide. As the days move into months, may this burden lessen. As the months move to years, use me to encourage and bless someone else who must walk a similar path. Help me to point them to you as the God of all comfort.
I know that you are always with me and that your love never ceases. Help me to find refuge in you and nowhere else.
In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Editor’s Note: The following is an abridged version of How to Pray the Psalms for Comfort during Grief by Christina Fox. To read the full article, follow this link.
Scriptures Against Depression – Scriptures Against Worry – New Testament Scriptures on Faith & Believing – Do God’s Promises Cover What You Want?
Psalm 34:18 – The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. New Living Translation
Psalms 31:9 – O’ Lord have mercy on me in my anguish. My eyes are red from weeping; my health is broken from sorrow.
Psalms 147:3 – He heals the broken heartened, binding up their wounds.
Matthew 5:4 – Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
John 14:27 – I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give is not fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
John 14:18 – No, I will not abandon you or leave you as orphans in the storm-I will come to you.
Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.
Psalms 30:5b – Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
John 16:33 – I have told you these things so that you will have peace of heart and mind, Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows, but cheer up, for I have overcome the world,
Proverbs 3:6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 – Brothers we don’t want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep: or to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope.
2Thessalonians 2:16, 17 – May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting comfort and hope which we don’t deserve, comfort your hearts with all comfort, and help you in every good thing you say and do.
Isaiah 49:13b – For the Lord hath comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted.
Jeremiah 31:13 – I will turn their mourning into gladness. I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
2 Corinthians1:3-4 – What a wonderful God we have-He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials.
Ecclesiastes3:1-4 – To every thing there is a season, a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal, a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance
Psalm 25:16-18 – Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged. bring me out of my distresses. Look upon my afflictions and my trouble, and forgive my sins.
Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil .for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.
John 14:1-3 – Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. in My Father’s house are many mansions
Exodus3:7 – Then the Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying and am concerned about their sufferings.
1Samuel 1:15-17 – Hannah had a sorrowful spirit and poured out her soul unto the Lord……and God answered her petition.
2 Samuel 18:32-33 and 2 Samuel 19 – King David mourned over the death of his son Absalom and cried out to God.
Psalms 22:24 – For He has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one, He has not hidden His face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
John 11:33-35 – When Jesus saw her weeping ….He groaned in spirit and was troubled. “Where have you lain him?” Jesus asked .They said unto Him, “Come and see.” Jesus wept.
Also, it is encouraging to read about what Heaven may be like in the 1898 classic Intra Muros – “My Dream of Heaven”
Book Overview – Read the Book Here
This book has stood the test of time and has a wide mainstream following. Many churches give it out as a comfort to grieving family members. Billy Graham wrote an introduction to one of the editions.