Encouragement in pain

During a recent sermon on encouraging each other in our faith, the minister said something that really landed with me. When we comfort others who are going through difficult times, rather than using platitudes or our own words, why not use the words of our Lord? He has experienced everything that we are experiencing, and He understands what we are going through.

Sometimes this is easier said than done, especially when the friend’s an atheist and words of the gospel might be as welcome as an autoplay video pop up ad. However, when I add elements of faith, or a faith storyline in my story, it is always in the hope that it will offer encouragement or comfort to someone reading, no matter where they are in their faith journey. The sermon had me considering where specific experiences of Jesus might be relevant in the everyday lives of my characters. Specifically, where could other characters relate the life of Jesus to particular circumstances and problems the protagonist is experiencing?

A couple of examples came to mind. Firstly, the frustration experienced with parents overstepping. Jesus has been invited to attend a wedding, and the wine has run out. His mom basically says, “Jesus will fix it.” We can hear the frustration in Jesus’ words: “Woman, why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come.” But instead of his mom apologising, she tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” She’s really dropped him in it here. A familiar feeling for us all, I’m sure!

If my protagonist found himself in a situation where a parent is overstepping, I might have their friend use this example to help him seek comfort in Jesus. If the overstepping is well meaning, the friend could encourage empathy for the protagonist’s parent by having their friend identify the loving confidence Mary had in Jesus, and his ultimately loving response. Her well-meaning urge that he help arose because he was the only one who could (not like there was a bottle shop around the corner!), and he responded with compassion.

Or if the overstepping wasn’t well meaning, or there seems to be nothing redeemable about the parent in question, the friend might prefer to show the good that came from the situation. Jesus not only saved the hosts from their plight, he made the hosts look good by making not just any old wine, but the best wine. The miracle encouraged the faith of his disciples, and subsequent followers for thousands of years. The friend could reflect this back to the protagonist’s particular situation and help him see that all is not lost.

A second example that came to mind was the loneliness of being let down by friends. Knowing that he’s about to perish, Jesus asks just one favour of his friends: “Stay here and keep watch with me.” It’s not a big ask, but instead of praying, they fall asleep. He admonishes them and asks that they try again, but a second time “he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.” This time he lets them sleep, and goes to pray alone. My friends are pretty reliable, but I can certainly remember times where I’ve been let down right when I needed someone the most. And I’m sure I have done the same to them.

I’ll leave this example with you. How might you use this situation to create empathy, encourage, or reflect back faith in your protagonist who’s been let down in their hour of need?