Comfort Through Personal
by J. R. Miller, 1912
Every true Christian desires to be helpful. He
longs to make his life a blessing to as many people as possible. He wishes
to make the world better, his neighborhood brighter and sweeter, every life
he touches, in even casual associations, somewhat more beautiful. It is
worth while that we should think just how we must live if our lives—if we
would reach this ideal. We cannot come upon this kind of a life
accidentally. We do not drift into a place and condition of great
The secret of personal helpfulness—is love in the heart.
No one can be a blessing to others—if he does not love. Nothing but love
will make another person happier, will comfort sorrow, will relieve
loneliness, will give encouragement. You never can be of any real use to a
man—if you do not care for him, and you care for him only so far as you are
willing to make sacrifices to help him, to go out of your way to do a favor.
It is never by chance, therefore, that one finds himself living a
life that is full of helpfulness. Such a life comes only through a
regeneration that makes it new. That is what it meant to become a Christian.
The secret of Christ, was abounding personal helpfulness.
We say he gave his life for the world—and we think of the cross. But the
cross was in his life from the beginning. He never had a thought or a wish
for himself. He never pleased himself. Ever he was ready to give up his own
comfort, his own ease, his own preferment, that another might be pleased or
helped. With this thought in mind, it will be a most profitable piece of
Bible reading, to go through the Gospels just to find how Christ treated
the people he met. He was always kind, not only polite and courteous—but
doing kindly, thoughtful, helpful things. His inquiry concerning every
person was, "Can I do anything for you? Can I share your burden? Can I
relieve you of your suffering?"
The Good Samaritan was Christ's illustration of love—and
the illustration was a picture of his own life. There is no other way of
personal helpfulness—but this way, and there is no other secret of attaining
it—but his secret. You cannot learn it from a book of rules. It is not a
system of etiquette. It is a new life—it is Christ living in the heart.
It is personal helpfulness of which we are thinking. A
man may be useful in his community, may even be a public benefactor, may do
much for the race—and yet may fail altogether to be a real helper of the
individual lives he touches in his daily associations. A man may do much
good with his money, relieving distress, founding institutions, establishing
schools, and may not be a helper of men in personal ways. People do not turn
to him with their needs. The sorrowing know nothing of comfort ministered by
him. The baffled and perplexed do not look to him for guidance, the tempted
for deliverance, the despairing for cheer and encouragement.
It is this personal helpfulness, which means the most in
the close contacts of human lives. So far as we know—Jesus never gave money
to any one in need. He did not pay rents for the poor, nor buy them food or
clothes—but he was always doing good in ways which meant far more for them
than if he had helped with money. There are needs which only love and
kindness can meet. Countless people move about among us these days starving
for love, dying with loneliness. You can help them immeasurably by becoming
their friend, not in any marked or unusual way—but by doing them a simple
kindness, by showing a little human interest in them, by turning aside to do
a little favor, by manifesting sympathy, if they are in sorrow. A little
note of a few lines sent to a neighbor in grief, has been known to start an
influence of comfort and strength that could not be measured.
It is the little things of love, which count in
such ministry—the little nameless acts, the small words of gentleness, the
looks that tell of interest and care and sympathy. Life is hard for many
people—and nothing is more needed continually than encouragement and cheer.
There are men who never do anything great in their lives, and yet they make
it sunnier all about them, and make all who know them happier, braver,
stronger. There are women, overburdened themselves, perhaps—but so
thoughtful, so sympathetic, so helpful, so full of little kindnesses, that
they make the spot of the world in which they live, more like heaven.
How can we learn this lesson of personal helpfulness? It
is not merely a matter of congeniality of disposition; it is not a matter of
natural temperament. A selfish man can learn it—if he takes Christ for his
teacher. Self must be displaced in the thought and purpose and
affection—by "the other man." If love fills the heart—every expression of
the life gives out helpfulness.
A young woman, speaking of the way different people had
been a comfort to her in a great sorrow, said: "I wish some people knew just
how much their faces can comfort others." Then she told of an old
gentleman she sometimes sat beside, on the bus. He did not know her—but she
was always helped by just seeing his face. There is a great deal of this
unconscious helpfulness in the world. Indeed many of the best things we
do—we do without knowing we are doing them. If we are full of love—we will
be helping others wherever we go—and the things we do not plan to do when we
go out in the morning—will be the divinest things of the whole day!
Not only is the life of personal helpfulness most worth
while in the measure of good it does, in its influence upon others—but no
other life brings back to itself such rewards of peace, of strength, of
comfort, of joy. What of love you give to another—you have not really given
away—you have it still in yourself in larger measure than before! No gain
one gets in this world—is equal to the love of hearts that one receives,
from those one serves in unselfish love!