Friday, July 8, 2011

Sermon Lessons: Comfort

4"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you."
(Matthew 5:4)

9-11When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don't ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that's a picture of the "prosperous life." At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.
(James 1:9-11)

Yesterday we explored the importance of establishing the loss of "control" in our lives as the means of actually giving control to the one who is able to manage our lives the best - God.  Today, we will look at what "losing what is dear to us" really does in our lives.  It is in loss that we understand the need for comfort.  It is also in loss that we connect with that which is most important to us.  There is just something about loss - physical, emotional, or relational - that causes us to look at our lives again.  We become "evaluators" of where we have been, what we have done, and the cost that we have paid for where we find ourselves today.

Things are short-lived.  We tend to count on them sometimes as though they are permanent.  We expect our cars to run when we hit the ignition switch.  We don't count on them sputtering to a halt in the middle of an intersection.  When we take them to the mechanic and hear the news that the cost of repairs outweighs the remaining value of the vehicle, we find ourselves faced with tough decisions.  James' advice to us is to realize that things are really not permanent.  They change with time.  

We are often put in positions where our careers take a turn we did not expect, the economy sends us into a tizzy because ends no longer meet, or the people we thought would be there for us in times of hardship are just not sensitive to the moment.  These are opportunities for God to embrace us like he has not been allowed to before.  Our "counting on" people, things, or circumstances has kept him at arms length.  In the time of loss, he can finally pull us close.  Our defenses are let down, and he can reach into our hearts in comfort, in correction if needed, and in his healing compassion.

When God embraces us, he is taking us near to his heart eagerly - there is an intense willingness to pull us near.  He takes that which is ready to be received.  He does not force himself on us.  Comfort is only accepted by a ready heart.  Correction is only useful if the ears and mind are open to listening to it.  Compassion only connects with our misery and walks with us in the moments that cause us distress when we are open to having a "walking companion".

We may not fully recognize the "frailty" of those things, plans, and people who have been given a position of "trust" in our lives.  Yet, in the loss of these, God stands ready to reveal his love - and yes, if necessary, his correction.  The two are not opposites - they go hand in hand.  It is in love that correction brings us close.  It is in love that comfort accomplishes healing.  It is in love that we understand the strength of his embrace.  Have you experienced the comfort of his embrace lately?