Text: Psalm 119:153-160
Here’s the situation: A friend comes to you who is hurting. They share painful details of a trial they are in. They are looking to you for comfort. What do you do? What do you say?
There is a right way to minister to the hurting. And it all starts with love. Love for God, love for his word, and love for the person who is hurting. Unpacking these verses, consider 5 questions that we often ask when we are hurting:
1. What did I do to deserve this? (vv. 153, 159)
The psalmist is saying, “Lord, examine my life. I’ve been reading the Bible. I’ve been praying. I thought I had been living right.” The psalmist is not accusing God of injustice, but he is appealing to God that, compared to his enemies, he is living a righteous life.
When you and I are hit with suffering, one of the first things we can wrestle with is “What did I do to deserve this?”
Either in our own suffering, or in comforting another, we may not have the answer. Maybe you did nothing to deserve it. Don’t be like Job’s friends who said, “Job, you’re suffering because you’ve obviously sinned against God!” Never make that assumption.
And also, in helping others with their hurt, don’t run to Romans 8:28 too quickly – “God is sovereign. This is all going to work out for the good.” That’s true. But that’s not the first thing a suffering person needs to hear.
What they need is care and comfort. Minister the peace and comfort of Christ. Yes, God is working all things for a purpose, but first take time to hurt with those who hurt.
2. Can anyone understand the pain I’m in? (v. 154)
When we are hurting, especially when that hurt has been directly caused by the sin of another, the victim needs an advocate – someone to stand up for them, plead their case, to affirm what is right and just.
Jesus doesn’t just hurt with us. He came to earth to bring the remedy, to be the remedy, dying for the sins of His people on the cross, reconciling us to the Father, bringing hope in our hurts and bringing purpose in our pain, standing in the gap for us, not only taking the wrath of God on our behalf, but Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, advocating for us, for those who trust in His shed blood, those who are called by His name.
So, when we hurt and ask, “Does anyone know what I’m facing?” The answer is yes. Jesus does. Right now, He knows your pain, and He is the one who brings comfort and hope in the midst of your trial.
3. Why does it seem like I suffer more than others? (vv. 155, 158)
We know our feelings often mislead us. It may feel like we’re suffering more than others (because my pain hurts me than your pain hurts me). And we don’t think clearly in a trial. Pain – no matter if it’s physical, emotional, or spiritual – can overwhelm our senses and blur our judgment.
It may feel like you are suffering more than others. You’re not. But here’s a truth that’s even more helpful: While your pain is real, it is not forever. Your pain is great. But it doesn’t have to be the worst of anyone in history – God cares because it’s your pain.
And you have a Savior who knows that pain intimately and specifically, not only as your pain, but as His own, what He endured on your behalf. He cares for you. Let Him carry your burdens. That’s what a hurting person needs to hear.
4. If God is merciful, why doesn’t He end this trial? (v. 156)
When we going through something bad, it can be hard to believe that God is good. And when we suffer, we can be tempted to believe God is not merciful.
So, it’s encouraging to hear the psalmist affirm God’s mercy. In the middle of his own pain and suffering, the writer is saying, “Lord, even in my pain, there are some things I know to be true. I know You are merciful. Even when I don’t feel it, even when I can’t prove it by looking at my circumstances, I know You are merciful.”
Many times God’s mercy is best shown – not by rescuing us or removing us from that trial – but by entering into it with us, holding us close, walking us through the suffering, reminding us of His love, showing us that His strength and His grace are sufficient. Remind the hurting that God is near, because God is merciful.
5. How can God’s Word really help me in my trial? (v. 157, 160)
The suffering psalmist is asking to find life in God’s promises, God’s rules, and God’s steadfast love – all established and found in God’s Word, the Bible.
It’s encouraging to hear a suffering man affirm such truth. But we know, even on our best days, we don’t always have that same resolve. We get weak. We forget what is true. We disobey. We want to quit. We want to give in.
Helping someone to trust God in the middle of a trial does not come by us simply telling someone, “trust God”. Show them. Gently walk them there. Don’t lecture. Don’t preach a sermon. But through tears, through your own weakness and humility, go to the simple yet profound truths of God’s love and faithfulness found in Scripture. For those who are hurting:
– point them to the nearness of God – (Psalm 34:18-19; 1 Peter 5:10)
– remind them in their trial, their pain is not permanent – (2 Cor. 4:17; James 1:12)
– remind them Jesus is our strength – (John 16:33)
– remind them of the hope beyond this life – (Rev. 21:4)
That’s where we find hope in our heartache. That’s where we find comfort in our pain – not just by relating to the trials of a suffering psalmist. Our comfort comes from trusting in the Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered for us.
In our own hurts, may God help us to find our comfort in this Savior. And for those who are hurting that need our help, may we take the time to lovingly, patiently take them to the Savior, to find comfort and healing in Him.