Welcome to our 5th installment of “Boosts from the Bible,” our effort at delving into the rich resources of God’s Holy Word so that God may inspire us in this strange and perplexing time of the coronavirus.
I read a virus-related news article titled, “We are all caregivers now.” One way that we can “give care” to one another is by thinking about what we could do to “give comfort” to the people around us. To give comfort to someone is to really serve someone in time of need. I’ve heard several people say, “I don’t know how people can get through this without faith,” and I think by that most people mean that their faith in God at times like these gives them real comfort. I’m reminded that Jesus called the Spirit of God, “The Comforter.” That’s our focus today on “Boosts from the Bible”: COMFORT.
Recently, I led a funeral worship service. As usual, I started out by speaking the following from our hymnal: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of all mercies and the God of all consolation, Who comforts us in all OUR sorrows so that we can comfort others in THEIR sorrows with the consolation we ourselves have received from God.”
Where did we get that bit of funeral liturgy? From the Bible, of course. It’s part of our biggest boost from the Bible today. I’ll repeat what I just said, and then go on to read the full passage, from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, the first chapter, verse 3 through 11. I’m about to mention the word “affliction,” and an “affliction” can mean anything that feels like a great burden to us. Here’s the passage: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and the God of all consolation, Who consoles us in ALL our affliction, so that we may console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ.”
Did you catch that, this version used the word “console” instead of “comfort.” In any case, to comfort or console someone is to be there for someone in their pain…to literally “believe in” someone so much that you are willing to take the time and effort to “back them up” in tough times. You know that first “best friend” you had as a kid? How the two of you would not only hang out together and do things together, but also confess your highs and lows, your fears and ambitions, your worries and triumphs – all of it – to one another, comforted with the knowledge that that other person liked and understood you and that you liked and understood them. And you began to be there for each other, through thick and thin.
That’s what we need a lot of in these days…these days as they STRETCH on and on and on. You know, the word “comfort” is made of two parts: “com” which means with – you’re with someone, and “fort” which means strengthen – making a real “FORT…a fortress of strength” around your friend. Those who comfort each other are “with” each other to help defend each other against what Shakespeare called “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” – especially against BAD fortune…against a terrible turn of events.
We are called to GIVE comfort, but also it helps to RECEIVE comfort – and we can always receive comfort from God. Paul, in our reading, called God “the Father of all mercies and the God of all consolation.” But sometimes it’s hard identifying with the Creator of the Universe, which is one reason why God sent His Son so that we may trust in God more by trusting in this amazing Jesus that we read about. As Paul said, “Also, our consolation is abundant through Christ. In Hebrews 2 we read about how Jesus – who got tired and slept, who got hungry and ate, who when under pressure sweated, who when in pain moaned and groaned – how this Jesus, through His sufferings, identified with you and me: “Therefore,” we read, “Jesus had to become like His brothers and sisters in every respect, so that He might [one day] be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God….Because He Himself was tested by what He suffered, He is able to help those being tested.” That’s us.
We’re being tested by this crisis, you and me. There’s no doubt about it. We are being tested financially, some more than others. We are being tested by the isolation we are undergoing, again, some more than others. We are being tested by the fear of getting the virus and the sorrow at seeing others getting sick and some dying by the virus. Our patience is also being tested as this period drags on.
But our Risen Lord – celebrated as Risen from the dead this past Sunday – is someone we can pray to who we KNOW will comfort us because He’s been through what we are going through. He was isolated for forty days in the desert –with Satan, no less! As Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was grasped by fear of torture, crucifixion, and especially rejection by so many ahead. His patience was always tested as even His disciples did not understand His teachings.
Jesus – “The Word of God who became flesh and lived among us” – is someone who “gets it,” who gets what we’re going through, and sends His Spirit, all the time, to strengthen, encourage, and comfort us. Again in Hebrews 4 we read, “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we DO have One who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” The writer of Hebrews, with that in mind, has a suggestion for us in the very next verse, so let’s listen closely: “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with BOLDNESS, so that we may receive mercy and find grace TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED.” Whew! Ain’t that a timely verse. Let’s keep going to God and praying to God for comfort, among other things!
Let’s remember where we began. God gives us comfort partly so that WE can transfer that SAME comfort to others around us. Now we may be afraid to try to comfort others – and there are a few times when what we say or do isn’t received the way we would like. That just happened to me recently. But don’t let that ever stop you. It doesn’t stop God! Keep supporting, encouraging, and comforting others. I’m reminded of the famous end of a poem that June Jordan wrote: “We are the ones we are waiting for.” Let us strive to be the first to offer comfort to others. As the song says, “When the Spirit says to move you gotta move!”
With the Spirit of God MOVING WITHIN US, consoling and comforting us, let us continue to reach out to others. As Paul also said in his second letter to the Corinthians, “We do not lose heart….FOR THIS SLIGHT MOMENTARY AFFLICTION is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look NOT at what CAN be seen but at what CANNOT be seen; for what we see [the sickness, the death, the stagnation],” Paul writes, IS TEMPORARY, but what cannot be seen is…ETERNAL.”
Prayer: “May God bless you during this momentary affliction; may you be comforted with the comfort of Christ; and may you have the opportunity to pass that “Christ-comfort” on to the people around you. In Jesus’ Name. Amen!”
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