Monday, June 13, 2011

God of all comfort

 3-5All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

It is easy for us to believe that God is not with us in our times of suffering.  Paul makes some very interesting comments about God's comfort for us in this passage.  First, he refers to God as "Father of all mercy" or "Father of Compassion/Comfort" (depending on the translation you might be reading from). A father is one who has begotten a child - as such, he has a certain sense of responsibility for that child.  We have lost sight of this sense of responsibility in our culture today with the rampant abandonment of families by fathers, but the fact is that God does not abandon those he calls his children.

As a father, he has a consciousness of the distress of his children - that brings about a desire to alleviate that distress.  As a parent, one of the toughest struggles I encounter is knowing when to allow my children to experience the discomfort, and when to intervene to alleviate it.  There is often a lesson is allowing the child to "find their way out" of the discomfort, so intervening too soon lessens the opportunity to learn from choosing a wrong path.  God is sensitive to the emotions of his children - he is moved by them.

Second, as the God of all Comfort, or God of all Healing Counsel, Paul is presenting the side of God's character that is yearning to offer strengthening aid.  He comes alongside, as a support, to bring consolation in time of trouble, and to remove worries.  God's intention is to bring relief - encouragement, hope, and to ease the grief or trouble we are experiencing.  

Hurts are a part of life - we cannot escape them.  It has been a tough lesson to learn that comfort is found in NOT in the absence of pain, but in the midst of it.  Think about it - do you really appreciate your comfort until you are experiencing pain that you cannot relieve?  When that throbbing ache in your back, or the pounding in your head, is finally ended - isn't that when you realize the beauty of comfort?  Being comforted is not equivalent to being comfortable, though.  The term being comfortable carries the idea of being content or secure, free from doubt, stress, and tension.  The idea of being comforted carries the idea of being strengthened greatly, or being made strong - in the hope the is given, in the word of encouragement received, etc.

Comfort that comes from God is not based on our circumstances.  In the midst of the moment of our affliction, we cry out for comfort.  We think that if the circumstances change, then our comfort will return.  God is compassionate - yet some of his greatest comfort comes in giving us the strength to go on in!  We often equate comfort to deliverance - God often equates it with the strength to "bear up" under the pressures of the circumstances and to remain encouraged. 

It is in moments of deep sorrow that God brings deep peace - he is close enough to meet our deepest needs.  There are a lot of "avenues" that God travels in our lives - each one involves him coming alongside - whether it be the "avenue" of grief, anxiety, regret, or personal pain.  

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