Being a Comfort When You're Not Sure What to Say

Wednesday morning at six, my father-in-law is going to have heart surgery. Emily’s been surprisingly okay with everything (as she’s been fond of saying, she gets anxious about the little things, but the big ones don’t faze her too much), and her Dad is pretty confident that everything will be fine. But Emily’s mom… you can hear the stress in her voice whenever she calls.

It’s been a tough few weeks for her, and honestly we’ve not been sure how to be of comfort beyond telling her that we’re praying for her.

Being (as far as we know) the only Christians in our family, this has been a big struggle for us—the things we take comfort in, the only things that bring true comfort (Christ’s death, Christ’s resurrection and the hope of His final return and our future glorification with Him)—these things aren’t terribly comforting to people who don’t trust in Christ or believe that God is good. (And Emily’s shared this with her mom, which was one of the most loving acts I’ve ever seen her take.)

While I’m sure that the operation is going to be fine (sadly it’s become somewhat a standard procedure), I can’t help but wonder…

What if it doesn’t?

I know that, ultimately, if the surgery goes well, it’s by the will of God.

And I know that if it doesn’t, it’s also by His will.

God’s absolute sovereignty is one of the most comforting truths that He has revealed to us. The Psalmists revelled in it. Paul extolled it.

Jesus—well, Jesus is the Sovereign One, so, obviously…

But this doesn’t bring much comfort to those who are opposed to Him.

What I’ve been praying regularly is that God would use this situation to draw Emily’s family to Himself. That He would be revealed and they would respond in faith.

And maybe that’s enough.

Would you join us in praying for this to happen?

We received an update on my father-in-law’s surgery this afternoon. When the doctors began to operate they discovered they had to do a quintuple bypass, rather than the triple they originally thought.

After five hours of surgery, he has been moved to the recovery ward, but they’re waiting for his blood pressure to drop before they can wake him up. Apparently it’s a lot harder to get the blood pressure of “younger” men under control after a procedure like this which is why he is remaining out for the time being.

Thank you for your prayers today. They’ve meant a lot to us!

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  • JD

    Aaron, I have already been praying this morning, and will continue to do so. You’re right… in Christ, we have comfort and peace that passes understanding, and it’s so hard to describe or “give” this to people who do not believe in Christ. That being said, I believe that when we do have this peace, this complete comfort in Him, it does draw others to Him — I’ve seen people ask me where my peace comes from and long to know it for themselves… it’s an opportunity to share Him with those we love. Peace and comfort is something that we universally seek in our lives — others who don’t have it will long to know where it can be found in abundance.

  • Amber

    Aaron, I’m sorry to hear about this, and I’ll be praying for you and Emily. I think your small gestures will mean more to them than you could know.

    I once worked on a series of books written by psychologists for lay people about how to respond to various traumatic situations. It was so helpful to me. There were several resounding pieces of advice when trying to comfort: Just listen. Rather than trying to give advise, often what people need most is to know that someone loves them and is there to listen to their struggles. One of the worst things people can do is dismiss the problem by saying things like, “I’m sure it’s going to be fine.” This makes people feel like you aren’t really listening and are dismissing their problems.

    Not that I think you are doing either of those things, but I think these two things are some of the most helpful things I’ve learned in 10 years, so I share them whenever I can. :)

  • Aaron Armstrong

    Thanks Amber & JD – I appreciate the prayers :)

    Y’know, it’s funny; the only one who seems to be dismissing the whole thing is actually Emily’s dad; every time we’ve all talked he’s been just said, “Ah, it’ll be fine. I’m not all that worried about it.” Not sure if he’s just trying to put on a brave face, for the sake of his daughter, but…

  • JD

    When will you receive an update from the hospital/doctors, Aaron? Any idea how long the surgery is expected to take?

    Thinking of your family, praying…

    • Aaron Armstrong

      Not sure when we’ll receive an update – probably this afternoon; the surgery should be about four-five hours, but it could be shorter or longer depending.

  • Aaron Armstrong

    Posted a short update at the end of this post on his status.

  • Don

    Thanks for the update, Aaron – keep us informed. Soli Deo Gloria,

  • JD

    Thank you, Aaron, the update is really appreciated. Quintuple… I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone having one. So grateful that they did the surgery and that it went well. Praying for a smooth recovery.

    Keep us posted!