‘For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.’
2 Corinthians 1: 5
I like comfort.
And I like comforting things too.
I mean… who doesn’t ?!
To me, comfort is chocolate and red wine and ice cream and familiar chick flicks that I know inside out.
Comfort is home made slow cooked stew served with thick crusty bread, and it’s a warm cup of mulled wine and a roaring log fire on cold wintery day.
Comfort is thick buttery toast, hot chocolate, dominos pizza, and watching Netflix on my sofa in my favourite old sweater.
But 2 Corinthians 1 reminds me that this not what true comfort is about at all; not from God’s point of view anyway.
You want to know the God of all comfort? Sure, that sounds nice, you think.
Until you realise that pain and suffering is the pre-requisite…
The pre-requisite for comfort
Hmmm, on second thoughts, I’ve changed my mind… I’ll stick with my chocolate and Netflix account, thanks!
I’m joking about this of course, but only just in part.
Because the truth is that you can’t ever really fully know His comfort without first going through something that leaves you really in need of being comforted.
And I think that so many of us go through life thinking that we can just avoid the hard parts and fast forward to the easy bits – just because we’re Christians.
But that’s simply not the truth. God never promised us anywhere that life would be all be easy if we followed Him. Quite the reverse, in fact…
In John 16:33 we see Jesus warning his followers to expect troubles in this life:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
So nowadays, instead of expending so much energy desperately trying to avoid, escape or rush past every challenging or painful situation as fast as possible, I am slowly, very slowly, learning to see that suffering and heartbreak can actually be a part of the blessing. Even though it never really feels like it at the time.
No one ever chooses to sign up for suffering, because well, why would you?
Yet we can choose to draw near to God, in the midst of it all.
And over the last year or more, as this has been my unfolding story, what I have been discovering is that whenever I do make that choice to draw nearer, even in the smallest of ways, I get to experience the God of all comfort drawing near to me too.
How do you draw near?
1. Make some silence and space
“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46: 10
Create some quiet moments of pause in your life. Get really disciplined about this. Turn off all the other distractions for a while, including your mobile phone, and make some space to really know His presence with you, and begin to hear what He wants to say – right there, in your place of pain.
2. Pour out your heart
“In my trouble I cried to the LORD, And He answered me” Psalm 120: 1
Tell him how you feel. Cry out to Him, and be really real with Him. Don’t just put on a spiritual performance and tell Him what you think He wants to hear. He won’t be shocked or surprised by your sadness, anger, disappointment or doubts and fears. And after all, He already knows all your thoughts from afar anyway…
3. Find some processing tools
‘Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks’ Matthew 12: 34
It’s never good to bottle things up, because in my experience, emotions always find their way out. And chances are that if you don’t process them in a good way, they will just end up spilling out at the wrong person, and at the wrong time too. So try to cultivate some extra tools to help you along your way? Try talking to someone else such as a counsellor regularly, and/or try journalling about how you are feeling daily . The important thing is not to hold back or self-censor how you are feeling, and trust that truth and perspective will follow later…
4. Pray often, and on the go
‘Pray in the spirit at all times’ Ephesians 6: 18
Try to talk to God about how you are doing, and involve Him constantly by praying ‘on the go’ as often as you can. Do it especially on the days when you really don’t feel like doing it, when you aren’t coping well, and when you sense that despair creeping in. Ask for His presence to be your comfort and strength right in the midst of those difficult moments.
5. Keep choosing the truth
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” John 8: 32
Whilst your emotions are really important to acknowledge, they don’t always lend you a full perspective. All they can tell you is how you are feeling about a situation; and not actually what is actually true.
It can be really hard to stand firm on God’s truth when your heart is broken and your emotions are all over the place. But it’s so important to balance your emotions with God’s truth. So read His word, speak it out loud, stick in on your kitchen wall, listen to it on podcasts, or songs in the car, or use any other means that you can to squeeze it into your day.
A final thought…
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
– James 4:8
So let me just finish by adding this encouragement, that as you seek to draw near to God in any or all of these ways, His promise is that He will also draw near to you too.