by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington
What a wonderful God we have—he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 TLB
After my father’s death, I uncovered an ancient cardboard box wedged in the back of his closet. Inside were some remnants of his military service during World War II: a good conduct medal, his wings, war department ID, aircraft spotters’ guide, a 1943 Christmas menu from headquarters in Fortaleza, Brazil where he was stationed for a time, and the letter notifying my grandparents that my father was a prisoner of war.
In a daring endeavor, my father eventually escaped captivity through the Underground. When he returned to America, he didn’t talk much about his experiences. One of his brothers told me that Daddy often sat in front of the radio in those days, head bowed and arms on his knees, listening. If someone entered the room unexpectedly, daddy jumped, wary, eyeing the intruder with suspicion.
Today, my father’s post-war reactions would likely be labeled post-traumatic stress, but there was no name or counseling for it then. Daddy packed his emotional pain in a mental compartment and shoved it to the back of his mind, in a similar fashion to the back-of-the-closet cardboard box housing the history of his military service.
Decades later, my cousin was accepted at the US Air Force Academy. The summer before his freshman year, my father bought Wesley a pair of military dress shoes, took him out to our driveway, and taught him to march.
“I want him to be a step ahead of the other boys,” Daddy said.
My father also hauled out war stories, dusted them off, and told him about his experiences. Much of what he said had never been shared with others. He identified with some of the challenges Wesley faced in the coming four years, and hoped to help him in his adjustment to military life.
Often, when we go through difficult life situations, we swallow the hurt and consign the pain to a private corner of our minds and hearts. Some stagnate in grief, withdrawing from those around them, never discussing their challenges, or moving beyond the pain. Others find a way forward, with God’s help, yet never encourage others dealing with similar situations.
But 2 Corinthians 1:4 reminds us that we are to minister to those around us with the same comfort we’ve received from God. My father didn’t share his experiences until my cousin embarked on a similar journey.
Perhaps someone you know is struggling. Although the situation might not be identical to yours, your wisdom and encouragement may be of great benefit. Dredging up memories may feel uncomfortable, but despite the emotional pain, be available to support someone marching down a difficult path. By listening and encouraging, you pass on the comfort you found through Scripture, prayer, and a deeper relationship with God forged through hardship.
About the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.
Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.
Join the conversation: Has anyone ever encouraged you with their experience of God’s faithfulness?