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Sunday, September 14, 2014

The God of all comfort

There is an old proverb that has been stated in many different ways over the years, but it goes something like this: "Everybody has at least one story inside of them that would break your heart to hear it." Author Frank Warren has used a modified version of this quote in his writings, and he is responsible for another quote that I think is very appropriate for this topic: "Religious people fear hell - Spiritual people have walked thru it." (https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/8655.Frank_Warren) On some level, most of us understand that there are many different kinds of hurts in this world; but we have tended to focus on trying to heal the physical hurts for far too long. We can all applaud (and be grateful for) the advances that have been made in medical science within the last fifty years, but what about the hurts and diseases of the soul?

I was touched by some comments that "Byker Bob" made over at Otagosh today. He talked about how some folks have never been able to regain their balance and equilibrium after leaving the Worldwide Church of God (or one of its many splinter groups). As someone who did leave that culture and eventually regained my footing, I completely understand the point that he was making. Sometimes hurts and disappointments run so deep that only a miracle can heal them.

Even so, those kinds of hurts almost always leave deep scars. These scars are not like the physical scars that remind us of some childhood accident or later surgery to remove some part of us that was causing problems or wasn't working properly. No, I'm talking about internal scars - scars on the soul - scars that no one can see.

In times past, I have written about addiction and revealed that I have a nephew who suffers from an addiction to drugs. I have talked about his struggles to free himself from the grips of that addiction, and his continued willingness to surrender himself to this demon. I've talked about the heartache and pain that this has caused for his children - the scars that it has inflicted on their sweet and innocent little souls. I also have a brother who has overcome a drug addiction and built a new life for himself, but who I also know will have to continue to resist the pull back into hell for the rest of his life. And when I think about them, I think about how all of us have our addictions/demons to fight - to struggle against. I realize the absolute truth of my opening quote - that we all carry around these unseen hurts and scars (some of us more than others).

Where is God in the midst of this pain and suffering? Many Christians talk about God as a physical healer, but what about the emotional/spiritual pain/diseases that afflict all of us to one degree or another? What about the Black Dog of Depression (something that I'm trying to outrun every day of my life)? What about the sorrow, isolation and loneliness that many folks experience on a daily basis? Did Jesus Christ suffer for those things too? Is God available to heal those kinds of hurts?

The Apostle Paul clearly made some mistakes in his ministry, and some of his theology is clouded and contradictory; but I think that he nailed this one. I think that he clearly understood that God could heal these kinds of hurts too - through us - through Christ working in us. After being very tough on the saints at Corinth (perhaps too tough - we're not debating that here), he wrote to them: "God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us." (II Corinthians 1:3-7, NLT) If you have suffered with Christ and been comforted by God, would you mind sharing that with someone in your life? They just might need it!

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