“There is immeasurable comfort in the revealing that the Son of God suffers with us in our suffering, is afflicted in all our affliction, is touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” J. R. Miller, The Ministry of Comfort
There are two words that are worthy of exploration and consideration as we seek to serve those who are grieving. If you’ve suffered loss, don’t forget what you needed from others while you were in the depths. You’ll need to remember your experience so you can help others. These two words can give us insight and instruct us about the needs of a mourner in their greatest hour of need.
These words are so very similar and yet so very different. And they are packed with meaning.
The difference between them is where the lesson lies. The greater importance lies in the difference in the two words. The difference in the words gives insight into the posture you take when you have a friend who is suffering loss.
The first word, condole, means to express sympathy or to grieve with. The second word, console, means to comfort someone during a time of grief or disappointment.
So very similar. So very different.
Condole before you console.
Condole carries with it the act of entering grief with someone. You’re not there to fix someone’s grief. You’re there to join them in their grief. You enter in. Feel the pain. Risk losing some control of the situation. Enter the fray.
“To grow in grace is not only to become more devout, obedient, and holy, but also to grow more loving—more gentle, kindly, thoughtful, patient, unselfish.” J. R. Miller, The Ministry of Comfort
To embrace the act of condoling is to embrace hard and painful work. You must enter grief. Get in the dirt. Vulnerable. Transparent. It’s much too simple to look at grief from the outside. That’s too safe. Too comfortable. You need to come alongside someone and face grief with them. Sit with the person grieving. Side-by-side. Together.
“…the sorrow itself deepens our spiritual life and enriches our experience, giving us a new power of sympathy through which we may become better comforters and helpers of others.” J. R. Miller, The Ministry of Comfort
Console, once again, is to comfort a person grieving. Where condole comes alongside the person and grieves with them, console faces the person administering comfort and seeks to provide support to them. The one who consoles seeks to stay strong to uphold the person.
Both condole and console have their important parts to play. But considering them juxtaposed provides helpful understanding. In some cases, you need to come alongside someone and grieve with them—condole. In other situations, you need to seek to provide support and ministry—console. Considering condole and console helps us take our eyes off the duty and places our attention on the mourner. We determine what they need and we either condole or console.
When in doubt, condole. Come alongside a mourner without answers. When a specific need has been shared, console. Approach the mourner with the ministry encouragement that is needed.
Both. Condole and console. But condole before you console.
“There is something about deep sorrow that tends to wake up the child-feeling in all of us.” Theodore Cuyler, God’s Light on Dark Clouds