There is a reason why ministers take courses on death & dying. Comforting someone who has experienced a loss or who is experiencing a personal tribulation is so difficult it often leaves us speechless.
A comfort that I understand is “s/he is in a better place.” I understand you’re not supposed to say that, but I get it. If after death we go to a happy place to live for all eternity, that is comforting. Also, the promise of joining them is surely a comforting thought.
Another forbidden comfort, but one that I do not understand is, “everything happens for a reason.” [FYI, when I hear this I take it as, “I’m sorry you’re suffering, and while all I have is this platitude, I do in fact grieve with you.”] How is that comforting? I feel like I’ve probably posted about this before, but it really boggles my mind. Let’s say you believe God passes out cancer to certain people, why would you think those struck by it would enjoying hearing that?
I find the idea that when we suffer, God suffers with us comforting in the same way it is comforting to know that my friends and family are with me. It is comforting to not be alone. I also find comfort from my faith to the extent it allows me to appreciate the deeper, cosmic beauty of life, including the life of another.
I wonder how others find their faith or the faiths of others comforting. Suffering is often cited as a reason for inventing religion. What does our modern religion have to offer those who suffer?
Note: This post was motivated by some difficult medical news about my dad. I have really appreciated comments of support from people, many of whom read this blog, but today, I’m not trying to solicit more. I’m really interested in exploring (1) what Christianity has to offer in the way of comfort and (2) why we find things comforting. So, I suppose for me, retreat to intellectual inquiry is another source of comfort.