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Charles Dickens’ The Chimes & Comforting Those Who Mourn

Dickens is good to read for reminders of what all you have to be grateful for and for reminers of the plight of the working poor.

The Chimes is not as good as A Christmas Carol, but has some similar themes and ideas (man shown his future, warned by ghosts).

One of the more striking passages provides a portrait of a very common but very poor approach to comforting people in grief. A poor woman with a young child has just watched her husband die, and her landlord and landlady approach comfort in different ways.

“Mrs. Tugby tried to comfort her with kindness.  Mr. Tugby tried philosophy.

‘Come, come!’ he said, with his hands in his pockets, ‘you mustn’t give way, you know.  That won’t do.  You must fight up.  What would have become of me if I had given way when I was porter, and we had as many as six runaway carriage-doubles at our door in one night!  But, I fell back upon my strength of mind, and didn’t open it!’”

This is a reminder of one reason it is helpful for pastors to read good fiction- good fiction provides truthful snapshots of the human condition. Too often men, in particular, try to comfort the way Mr. Tugby did. In the story we are shown also that Mr. Tugby speaks this way because he thinks too highly of himself and really does not care for those in need. This is not the pastoral heart and not proper pastoral comfort. Tugby sounds a bit like Job’s friends. We must weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15).

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