Henri Nouwen: Consolation

Home » Meditations » Meditations » Henri Nouwen: Consolation

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19

“Consolation is a beautiful word. It means “to be” (con-) “with the lonely one” (solus). To offer consolation is one of the most important ways to care. Life is so full of pain, sadness, and loneliness that we often wonder what we can do to alleviate the immense suffering we see. We can and must offer consolation. We can and must console the mother who lost her child, the young person with AIDS, the family whose house burned down, the soldier who was wounded, the teenager who con- templates suicide, the old man who wonders why he should stay alive. To console does not mean to take away the pain but rather to be there and say, “You are not alone, I am with you. Together we can carry the burden. Don’t be afraid. I am here.” That is consolation. We all need to give it as well as to receive it.”

Henri Nouwen in Bread For The Journey (New York: HarperOne, 2006) reading for 9 February. This is a daily devotional that I located in PDF form. Let me know if you’d like a free copy.

Notice the last sentence. It’s worth repeating.

“We all need to give it as well as to receive [consolation].” It’s not taking away but drawing near the brokenhearted. Saying “I am with you with our words and our actions.”

I am learning to do this.

It’s a vital aspect of our generosity, especially for people enduring hard times. We need to come alongside them, to help carry their burden. And how do we get the strength to do this?

The psalmist teaches us.

When we have pain and challenges, anxieties and stress, we find consolation in God. This refreshes and renews us to aid others. It positions us to lift their gaze heavenward.

I have a quick story about this.

We had our catalytic converters stolen from our Toyota Sequoia. Jenni shared this in a recent Spigot post and a friend came alongside her, encouraged her and pointed to a place that could help.

We had $3,732 in our tax refund and were asking God what to do with it.

The first bid was going to be $6,060 to fix them. We prayed. This friend offered us consolation and help. The place she pointed us to fixed them for almost exactly what we had: $3,670.

Why tell this story? It’s a story of consolation.

We came on hard times. We cried out to God. We had peace but still suffered. A friend drew near to us. Listened. Helped. God filled us with peace and provided for our needs and sent a friend to journey with us.

Consolation. We all need to give it as well as receive it.

And the place we can find and unlimited supply is the God of all hope who fills us with joy and peace when we put our trust in Him.