The House of Pain and Comfort
by Joseph Franks
What are you going to do with your pain and sorrow?
Many of you are severely tortured by your inward struggle with anger, lust, fear, pride, self-worship, and lack of self-control. This has led you to self-help or self-medicate or self-numb, and it has only heaped further sorrow upon your soul. In addition, many of you are broken hearted over the depreciation of your own body and even more so over that of your loved ones. Are you a friend who finds yourself grief stricken over the spiritual condition of their country, your local church, and/or your personal family. Some of you reading this devotional have lost jobs; others of you are in a worse situation for you have recently lost a marriage or a loved one. Are you crying because your are single? Are you sad because you are barren and cannot have natural children? Or are you crushed because the children you have are playing the part of the rebel and they are adding scar upon scar to their lives and those of your grandchildren. Friends, I do not know what particular troubles buffet you, but what are your going to do with your pain and sorrow?
What are you going to do to help your pained and sorrowing friends?
If a book would help, you would certainly log on to Amazon or go to Barnes and Noble and pick up that which was needed. If professional counseling were the cure-all, well that would be a no-brainer; you would send them to the therapist with due haste. If it were a matter of money, you would simply write a check. But as you get older, you know some problems cannot be solved, they can only be endured. Some disabilities and illnesses cannot be cured by the doctor. Some habits and patterns cannot be curbed by the therapist. A fresh start is not the answer to most problems. And the self-help gurus preaching their “power of positive thinking,” “name and it claim it,” “if you believe you can achieve” garbage does not normally result in long-term change. Therefore friends, what are you to do in order to assist those about you who are afflicted under the sovereign watch of God?
Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:3-11)
He cannot be more clear. Paul, as an exemplary, sold-out, obedient, totally-committed believer, has encountered horrific trials and afflictions. Sometimes he handles these afflictions with supernatural strength. In other letters he has written how he has learned to be content and rejoice in all things. However, in this letter he comments on his despairing state — he wanted to die. However, he was tremendously helped by compassionate and praying friends. They interceded for him, and God responded with merciful comfort in the midst of his affliction and despair. Now, he wanted to return the favor. He who had been comforted by friends and the Father wished to share the pain of his friends and pass along the peace. And he expected those in Corinth — and anywhere else where his letter has been read — to share pain and comfort one with another. They were to laugh, cry, hug, party, and pray together.
The Big Question
Why are you not more open, honest, transparent and willing to share your pain with your brothers and sisters in the church?
Could it be you are church-hoppers who make a switch every year or two, and the only relationships you have are new and somewhat superficial?
Could it be you are too often absent from your church and have not maintained the sweet relationships you once had with brothers and sisters in the church?
Could it be you are attending but distant when you go to church?
Could it be you are arrogant and do not want to ruin your image; you have no interest in letting people know you really do not have your act together?
Could it be you have shared and been hurt before, and now you cannot forgive and trust?
Could it be you are willing to share but people in your church have not enough temporal time, emotional collateral, or Christ-honoring compassion to bear your burdens with you?
One More Big Question
Are you part of the problem?
Are you so other focused — family, vocation, hobbies, ministry programs, self — that you have no temporal time, emotional collateral, or Christ-honoring compassion to share pain and comfort with your brothers and sisters in the household of faith?