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Comforting Tears

I was a green pastor about to make my first grief counseling call. The lady I was supposed to visit was a daughter-in-law of a neighbor of a member of the Church, or something like that. She was in her early twenties, about my age at the time, when her new husband died in a tragic automobile accident the day before. I was still in Seminary and had absolutely no training in what I was about to do, but I was the Pastor, so off I went with my pocket New Testament in hand.

Her tears made me feel uncomfortable. I didn't know whether to just sit there and watch her cry or to say something. She was paralyzed by her grief and was in no emotional condition to carry a conversation. Small talk seemed inappropriate, and I knew it was my place to initiate any conversation we would have.

Intuitively, I knew I needed to comfort her. But how? I wanted to say something like, "Well at least your husband is in heaven," but I didn't know him or her. After about two or three-hour-long-minutes, I dove in. "Mam, was your husband a Christian?" "No, he wasn't." Now what? What could I possibly say now?

Have you ever watched a young baby learn to hold a cup? That's the way I felt, without any ministerial dexterity I respond, "I'm sorry, I have no comforting words to give you."

At the time, I thought I was being bold when I began to give her the plan of salvation and explain to her how she needed Christ in her life. Today, as I look back on that inaugural pastoral care visit, I just think I was insensitive and rude.

If I could turn back the hands of time, I would return to her side, sit quietly and weep with her. Today, all I can do is pray that her memory isn't as good as mine.


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