I didn’t need to be a Pastor to see that suffering was a part of the life of the Christian. However, pastoring certainly magnified the reality. The year I began weekly pulpit ministry was the same year my mom began an eight-year battle with cancer. Suffering in the life of the Christian has been something I have grappled with my entire ministry. All Christians suffer and to varying degrees (Jas. 1:2). Yet, often we have a hard time knowing exactly how to best serve our brothers and sisters as they suffer, regardless of whether or not their suffering is long-term or short-term.
Several years ago I read something that has been seared into my mind since. A Christian wrote about his own suffering experience and reflected that much of the grace the Lord had extended to him was to bear with those attempting to minister to him. He reflected that often those who were desiring to be helpful were instead unhelpful in the things they said. I connected with his comment immediately as I thought of all the unhelpful, awkward, and sometimes hurtful things I had heard well-meaning Christians say to my mom over the years. No one wants to multiply the suffering of a brother or sister. I have learned (continuing to learn) that loving those who suffer takes gospel-confidence, compassion, courage, and thoughtfulness. (I lament the many times I have said something thoughtless to a friend in need.)
I have good news, Pastor Dave Furman has written a book to help us as we seek to minister to those who are suffering. I encourage you to take and read. This book will bolster your gospel-confidence, ignite your compassion, shape your thoughts (making you more thoughtful), and all of this leading you to ask the Lord for courage. May we, by God’s grace, be a church full of such people ready to minister.