From an editorial standpoint, overusing words is an obvious no-no. There are times when repetition works well for dramatic effect, of course, but it’s usually better to eliminate words or phrases that appear more than once or twice in a paragraph.
That said, I’m glad the Apostle Paul wasn’t fixated on editing rules when he wrote the first chapter of 2 Corinthians. In the space of six sentences, he used some variation of the word comfort no less than nine times, including four mentions in these familiar verses:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Theologians may have more sophisticated terminology for describing this process, but I like to call it the comfort cycle. And it’s pretty efficient, if you ask me. God comforts us in our troubles so we can later comfort other people with same kind of comfort that He first bestowed on us.
I’m so thankful for people I’ve known during different seasons of my life who came alongside me with the variety of encouragement that can only come from someone who has “been there.” Through infertility, job transitions, hormonal upheaval, parenting an extremely energetic preschooler, loved ones’ health problems and more, I don’t know how I would have coped without the prayers and support of these empathetic friends.
Granted, not everyone jumps at the chance to do this. Understandably, some people prefer to protect themselves from the emotional stress that can flow from recalling personal struggles and heartaches. The vulnerability that accompanies sharing certain experiences can be scary. Sometimes the wounds are too deep or the hurt too fresh.
But when one person is willing to relive sadness or pain because she believes it might comfort another person, it’s a beautiful thing indeed.
When my girls were younger, I remember hearing older moms say, “You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to those days.” Although this comment isn’t particularly helpful, I get it. Parenting toddlers (not to mention teenagers) can be exhausting in every possible way, and for some, it’s a relief to watch those years grow dim in the rearview mirror.
But I’ve also noticed something about my current stage of life that intrigues me. I have a few friends whose elderly parents suffered from Alzheimer’s disease before they died, and not once have any of these friends ever expressed any sort of gratefulness about being done with this difficult season.
The truth is, there’s something incredibly poignant about watching a parent near the end of his or her life in such a heartrending way. It’s hard and lonely and sad, but—as is the case with many life-changing trials—it’s often difficult to articulate any of that to someone who hasn’t been through it personally.
So these dear ones gently offer encouragement, empathy and practical advice—over the phone, in the church sanctuary, across the table at the coffee shop, even through blog comments—because they know what it’s like. They would probably give anything to be able to spend just a few more moments with their own loved ones, but because that’s not possible, they are willing to draw from their experiences to help me.
I think it’s true what Rick Warren says, that “God never wastes a hurt.” And when we reach out to hurting people who are right now where we once were, we get to participate in His divine recycling process.
And the comfort cycle continues.
♥ LoisWhen one person is willing to relive sadness or pain because she believes it might comfort another person, it’s a beautiful thing indeed. Click To Tweet