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I Feel Your Pain


When a first grader fell on the ice coming into church, the pastor tried to comfort him. "Remember, big boys don't cry." "Cry?" he replied, "I'm going to sue."

Do we live in a world where people would rather have money than comfort? Maybe, but we all know there are times when we would settle for comfort. Sometimes we are too selfish to give comfort. When some bus station employees were having a hard time keeping the door closed, they placed a sign on the door. "Please close the door for the comfort of others." However, the door stayed open most of the day. The next day they put up another sign that read, "Please close the door for your own personal comfort." That day the door stayed closed.

Most of us would like to comfort others, but we just don't know how. Let's say you have a friend with a terrible toothache. He calls and says, "My tooth really hurts. Could you come over and just be with me? I need some comfort." Since he is your friend, you go over to help, but instead of offering comfort, your stubbornness and self-righteousness take over. When you get there, he's moaning and complaining. Before thinking, you blurt out, "You're in a lot of pain, but there's a reason why you're in this mess. I just have one question. Are you brushing after every meal?" Your friend replies, "I'm hurting so bad, I don't even want to think about it right now." You retort, "Are you flossing? I just happened to be in your bathroom and I didn't see any flossing material whatsoever. I can tell that you're not flossing. No wonder you're in pain. You ought to be in pain – someone like you, who never flosses." He responds, "I did floss. I used a shoestring. Go away, I'm hurting." You continue to try to "comfort" him. "How about regular checkups? Have you had your regular checkups? When is the last time you went to the dentist." You just nail him, while he continues to hurt.

It may sound absurd but that's what we do sometimes when people are hurting spiritually and emotionally. "When is the last time you've been to church. I haven't seen you there. No wonder you're hurting. God will get you." They want to reply, "Oh shut-up. Why did I ask you over here? I knew you were self-righteous. You come over here and tell me what I need to do, and I just need some comfort." Yet we continue with our barrage.

What should you do if someone is in physical pain? You help him. You might say, "Can I go to the drugstore and get you anything. Do you need some Tylenol or how about some Numbs-it? Do you need anything? Maybe you'd like to rent a movie to help take your mind off the toothache. Maybe I can rub your feet. Maybe that will help you forget about your toothache. Whatever you want me to do, I'll do it." Your goal is to help him with the pain, while ultimately getting him to the dentist. The dentist can do what you cannot, which is deal with the problem instead of the symptoms.


We are not God, no matter what Shirley MacLaine says. Theologically speaking, you're not the dentist. We cannot do what it really takes to help. But we are friends of God – or in this illustration, we are friends of the dentist. We can get them in quickly when they are ready. Showing sympathy will help them to trust you and allow you to get them an appointment with the dentist. When the pain subsides they may listen to your lecture on tooth care, but not now. Right now they need comfort before they need counsel.

In the sheep country of New Mexico, shepherds were having trouble losing lambs in the late winter and early spring. The ewes took their lambs out to graze, and late in the day it started to snow. The temperature dropped, and the ewes continued to graze. The lambs would lie down on the ground and before long freeze to death. The shepherds got together to discuss the problem. They determined that the ewes, covered with wool didn't feel the temperature change. The shepherds decided on a unique solution. They took shears and sheared just the top of the head of the ewes. When the weather changed, they felt it and headed back to the barn, thus saving many of their lambs.

The first step in helping others may be to feel what they are feeling. That's the essence of comfort. That's what gets the sheep to the barn – and people to the shepherd.