Just over 2 years ago, I had ankle reconstruction surgery. Those who have been through surgery know the toil that it can take on not only your physical health, but your mental/emotional health. I was trapped in my bed all day long with no way to escape. I couldn’t even take a shower without dressing my cast in a trash bag. Many days I felt unreasonably angry and sad as I had no control over what was happening to me.
Looking back, I see how immensely blessed I was to have my family. They took me to my surgery and brought me back home. They drove me places when I needed a ride. They got my medicine and constantly made sure I was comfortable. They didn’t look to place any burdens on me, but helped me in my recovery. I was comforted by them and could trust in them to help me while I was bedridden.
Comfort is needed in the midst of affliction. It strengthens us and gives us hope to continue enduring the trials we are in. In 1 Corinthians 1:3, Paul calls God the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” He goes on to say that God “comforts us in all our affliction.” Affliction in Greek can be defined as “internal pressure”. This can be even more prevalent when we feel there is no escape.
Affliction is anything that causes us suffering by physical or mental distress. The reality is, life is not free of pain and suffering. It is not only something that can happen to us, trials and tribulation are promised to us (John 16:33).
In the process of our everyday lives, troubles are weighty and unbearable. I find that when I’m not actively going through troubles, it becomes easier to pull away from God. We get caught in the patterns of everyday life with work/home life and subconsciously, we feel like we don’t need God as much. Many times as well I find pain and suffering pulling me away from God when it should pull me closer to Him. What we forget is that being in this world means we too can face tribulation.
When we least expect it, our lives can be shifted by immense pressure and burdens. We begin to live arrogantly forgetting about the sovereignty of God and his hand in our lives. That’s what is meant in James 4:14 when it is said we “do not know what tomorrow will bring.”
This is not a word to make us feel insignificant, but rather to change our perspectives. Life is not free of suffering as evil is apparent in our world. Though we face overwhelming struggles, God is our comforter. These are 6 of the ways God provides comfort to us. Most likely not a complete list, but each one is important to our spiritually formed life.
In John 15, we are commanded to abide in love and keep God’s commandments. This means we rest our lives on the love of Christ. Every day, we recognize the finished work of Jesus on the cross and live our lives on that foundation. We love God because He first loved us. We show our love to God by keeping His commands and by being born again, we overcome this world with its sin and darkness (1 John 5:3-4). David in Psalms 91 describes God as our comforter and our fortress.
An important part of this Psalm is verse 14 and 15: “ “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” God recognizes that David has acknowledged Him and loves Him. From that, God comes to David’s aid. As Christians, we are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19, John 14:17). Jesus promised us a Helper who is the Holy Spirit and by Him, we have life, joy, and peace (Psalms 16:11, Romans 8:6).
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Jeremiah 32:27 “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” We can be comforted that if God is truly God, He holds all power, all knowledge, and is present at all times. I believe that people are scared of the reality that life is uncontrolled and unpredictable. We cling to those things that we feel we can predict and control whether that’s life choices we make or even the sin we take part in.
Ultimately, even sin gives a false sense of control as we are actually slaves to our desires. God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end. He stands outside of our time and sees everything. He is in control. God uses every good and bad thing for His purposes. He even uses evil for good (Genesis 50:20). He alone can deliver us from evil, so in that truth we can trust in Him.
What has helped me to have a deeper relationship with God has been inviting the presence of the Holy Spirit in my walk. When I am in prayer, I have found myself many times moved to tears by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is full of God’s “Kavod” or His weighty presence. In 2 Chronicles 5:14 it says,“…the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.” God’s glory is something we can at many times misunderstand because of our human understanding of spiritual things. God’s presence, though, is powerful. The priests could not even stand trying to minister because of God’s glory.
That is the manifest presence of God! It says in Psalm 16:11 that “in His Presence there is fullness of joy.” In the Old Testament, the Shekinah Glory is the visible manifestation of the presence of God. This is when God came down and His presence literally rested in the temple, the tabernacle, in the clouds, fire, etc. (Exod 25:8-9, Exodus 3, Nehemiah 9:12). The Bible tells us that we are now temples (1 Cor 6:19) and that in them the glory of the Lord, Jesus (Hebrews 1:3), abides in us. We daily can experience and be transformed by fixing our eyes on Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).
The beauty in the Gospel is that Jesus didn’t just die for you, He died for every person. When we decide to lay down ourselves and follow Christ, we come into the body of Christ (Ephesian 4:4-6). Obviously, even people who are saved aren’t perfect, in fact, they are very broken. This is a good thing because it allows us to learn how to empathize with our neighbor and see that our brother/sister has been saved by grace like us. When we are able to find a community in the Church that operates out of compassion, kindness, humility and forgiveness, we find a community in unity (Colossians 3:12-14).
Empathy looks like helping pray for our brother in Christ who is overcoming addiction or mourning a loss. Empathy looks like crying with the mother who lost her child. In doing that, we find something amazing. We find love given and reciprocated among “strangers” with little thought or hesitation. When we extend ourselves to the Body, the same love is given to us. In community, we can experience the full expression of God’s love.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:19-21 list sins that keep us from God. If you’re a human, chances are you’ve found your own actions or thoughts on these lists. When we sin, it affects the closeness we have with God (1 John 1:6). God is holy and just in that in order to be in relationship with Him, we must be to His standard of Holiness. The good news is God’s mercy is shown to us through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:15-16, Romans 5:1).
Not only do we receive salvation, but the sins we commit are made null when we confess them to God (1 John 1:9). Jesus has exchanged His righteousness for our sin and lifted the burden of sin off us. So, that means in our addictions, our pride, our lust, our deceitfulness God shows mercy and grace to us. He forgives us and He lifts our burdens from us (Matthew 11:28-30). We have hope in God’s kindness: He does not condemn us and is faithful to complete the work in us He started (Philippians 1:6).
The Word of God is full of God’s promises to us. I want to focus specifically on one we find in the New Testament. Romans 8:18 says “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” By being born again and following Jesus, we find hope in our salvation. The Word says we are from another nation, as our home is in the Kingdom eternally.
Romans 8:22 says ‘the whole creation has been groaning” in expectation that one day we will be liberated from our flesh and stand before God, not needing faith, but fully knowing God and loving Him. We can find comfort in knowing that this is not our best life, but our best life is still to come (Revelation 21:3-4). Our hope is that one day we will be free of suffering, pain, sadness, and division as we stand before our Father, perfectly united with other believers.