Tag Archives: comfort

Finding Comfort In Hardship: Part 3

Have you ever considered that your faith has a big spotlight placed on it every single time you as a Christian have to endure hardship in your life?  It’s true.  There are many who are watching Christians to see if we are living consistent lives.  They want to know if we really trust the God we claim to believe, so they want to know how we react when we are in trouble.

Fair or not, this is a reality, and our Lord recognizes that.  It is for this reason that he inspired the apostles to write, “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation…so that many will give thanks on our behalf…”(2 Cor. 1:6, 11), and, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation”(1 Pet. 2:12).  Faithful wives who have disobedient husbands – a serious burden for the wives, to be sure – are told to be subject to them…why?  So that “they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives”(1 Pet. 3:1).  Our conduct, how we act…especially in the face of suffering and hardship…matters.

Here’s a good question we should ask ourselves.  What should a suffering Christian look like?  For one, he should show gratitude to God.  Look at Paul, who in the midst of talking about his and his fellow Christians’ hardships in 2 Corinthians 2 didn’t forget to be grateful to God (2 Cor. 2:14).  When he exhorted the Philippians to bring everything to God in prayer in order to get unimaginable peace in the midst of hardship, what attitude did he go out of his way to tell them to have?  An attitude of thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6-7).

When we complain about our trials, all we are doing is increasing our anxieties and worries.  However, when we choose to instead thank God for his goodness even in the midst of suffering, we will have more peace.  Is this hard to do?  Sure.  Are most of us not very good at doing this?  Yep.  Most of us count our problems rather than our blessings, and by doing so we forget that God, even during the hard times, still provides us with every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).  Have we forgotten that as Christians we have more spiritual blessings than we could ever enumerate?  (Eph. 1:3)

Life’s difficulties remind us that we cannot make it through this life by ourselves.  When we remember that and act accordingly, others will notice…and that is one way we can open the door to bring the gospel to them.  Not only that, but we should also be reminded that life is temporary, and we are strangers on this earth who have citizenship in heaven rather than here (Phil. 3:20).  The Greek word translated “citizenship”in this passage describes the homeland of an individual who has been taken into captivity in a foreign land.  Such an individual would say, “Yes, I might be here as a slave against my will TEMPORARILY, but my citizenship is back in my homeland.  I have my name written in a register back in my own country to prove it.”  This is how it is with Christians in a spiritual sense.  We are here on this earth for a short visit, but our homeland is in heaven.  Our Father and our Savior are there, and our name is written there.

So we must remember that there is something better waiting for us (2 Cor. 4:16-17).  Jesus promised he would go and prepare a place of rest for us and that someday he would take us home to be with him in this place of eternal rest (John 14:1-3).  Where are our treasures…here, or in heaven?  (Matt. 6:19-21)  We can be thankful that they are in heaven rather than here on earth.  However, as long as we are here the God of comfort will bring rest and peace to our souls as we long for that eternal home.  We can rejoice in this, even while we are suffering, and especially when we realize that our joy in the midst of trouble gets the attention of others and can open doors for them to come to learn and obey the truth of the gospel so they can start on that road to heaven themselves.

I will never forget something that Terry Knighton, one of the shepherds of my congregation, told me once:  “During life, we have ups and downs.  But no matter what, we have an Advocate, Jesus Christ.  We must cast our cares on him.  If we have a good day, we must thank him.  If we are having a bad day, we must talk to him about it in prayer.  If you bring your troubles to God, he will find a way for you.”  That is very true.  That’s what God wants us to do.  That’s what God promises to do.  Let’s always remember that.

Joy In The Midst Of Grief

This past Sunday afternoon, I received a call that no minister wants to receive.  A dear sister in Christ had just passed away after suffering from a grievous illness for many months, and her family was grieving at the house.  Would I please come and be with them?  Two months ago, I sat every day at the hospital with another family from the church who was watching their husband, father, and brother lose his battle with cancer, and I went to their house on another Sunday when I received the call that he had left this life.  Sitting with folks who have lost their mate, their closest companion, the parent who brought them into this world and nurtured and loved them all their lives, the grandparent who had spoiled them as children and had given them advice, privileges, and goodies that they would never get from Mom and Dad, and holding their hands while they mourn and listening to them grieve and weep…it’s hard.  It’s at these times that I feel the most helpless and inadequate.

I’m sure you know what I mean.  Many of you have been there, and will be again.  I’ve found that it’s best to simply be there, to provide that hand to hold, that shoulder to cry on, that listening ear.  Job’s friends sat with him during his darkest hour for an entire week, and none of them said a word during that entire time (Job 2:11-13).  In fact, it turned out that the most comfort they gave to Job was when they were silent; once they started talking, they just added to his pain and sorrow!  (Job 4-37)  What a great lesson for us!

Yet, in the midst of all this sorrow, pain, loss and feelings of helplessness, I cannot help but feel joy and happiness for my brothers and sisters in Christ who have left this life.  The apostle John wrote, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this:  Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’  ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” (Rev. 14:13)  Those who die in the Lord are at peace now.  They are receiving comfort alongside Lazarus, Abraham, and the thief in Paradise (Luke 16:23-25; 23:39-43).  When Christ comes again, they will receive a new, imperishable body (1 Cor. 15:50-55) and rise again to meet him in the air (1 Thess. 4:13-18).  When we all stand before God’s judgment seat, Death and Hades will have given them up (Rev. 20:11-13).  They will hear from the lips of their Savior and Lord, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34), and they will be ushered into eternal life (Matt. 25:46).

In this life, they suffered…but their suffering was preparing them for eternal glory in heaven (1 Cor. 4:16-5:5), a place they will be with an innumerable host of their fellow saints, a place where there is no more pain, sorrow, hunger, thirst, or weeping, a place where they will be with God and the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-17; 21:1-4).  They will be in this wonderful place for all eternity not because they earned it or deserved it (Eph. 2:8-9).  No, they were sinners just like all of us (Rom. 3:23).  Heaven will be theirs because of God’s grace and mercy (Tit. 2:11-14; 3:3-7) which prompted him to send his Son to die for us (Rom. 5:6-11; 1 John 2:1-2).  Heaven will be theirs because they chose to obey God (Heb. 5:9; Matt. 7:21-23).  Heaven will be theirs because of their faith in Jesus (John 3:16), a faith which prompted them to obey him (James 2:14-26).  Heaven will be theirs because Jesus told them to repent of their sins, and they believed and obeyed him (Luke 13:3; 2 Cor. 7:9-10).  Heaven will be theirs because Jesus told them to wash their sins away by being baptized into him, and they believed and obeyed him (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:11-13; Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).  Heaven will be theirs because when they were penitently baptized, the Lord added them to his body, the church of which he is the Savior (Acts 2:41, 47; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4-5; 5:23).  Heaven will be theirs because they walked in the light of God by confessing their sins and striving to put Christ first in all things through their obedience of his commands (1 John 1:7-9; Matt. 6:33; 28:18-20).

And Heaven can be ours as well.  God offers us the same salvation he offered them.  He gives us the same plan, the same grace, the same mercy, the same sacrifice, the same commandments.  When we pass on, our loved ones can also find joy in the midst of their grief (1 Thess. 4:13-18), because we were in the Lord when we left this life (Rev. 14:13).

Are we in the Lord?  God’s Word tells us how to be in him.  Are we doing what he has told us to do?  Are we prepared for eternity?