The past few days have been an intense barrage of emotions and ministry. In a seven day period I've been a part of the funeral proceedings for 3 families. The causes of death were varied, and one was especially unexpected. In the midst of these times of deep sorrow, I have been encouraged by the strong displays of faith on the part of the families involved. They have been able to utilize amazing reserves of strength all because of their understanding of the comfort available to them through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Bible contains many accounts of people in times of deep distress and makes a point to declare God's compassion and care for those who suffer. A verse that has always encouraged me during times of grief is found in 2 Corinthians chapter 1 and says this:
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 tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
This week I saw this verse in action before my very eyes. I have had a few times of sorrow in my own life and I know others who were present at the funerals have had their own seasons of pain as well - some of which I had witnessed personally. It was a reassuring and powerful sight to see first-hand how people were able to appropriate the comfort of the Lord they had experienced in their own lives in reaching out to steady others who were in the midst of a great loss. I know that for me, the losses and pain I have experienced have made me more compassionate and better able to understand some of the struggles and losses of others. I certainly looked back to my seasons of difficulty and God's provision of His love and comfort during those times in my life to reach out to my friends this week in their hurts.
Perhaps the most uplifting example I saw of God's provision of mutual comfort among His people happened as I visited a friend I have mentioned in Previous blog entries. My friend Nelda, who is in the midst of an intense battle with diabetes and other health issues, had to have all of the toes of her left foot removed. This is an especially hard thing in that her right leg has already been amputated up to the knee! What has consistently amazed me about Nelda is her ability to immediately acquire God's comfort for herself AND to pass it on to others. When I entered Nelda's hospital room, there was no trace of self-pity sorrow or depression. On the other hand, her expression of her trust and faith in the Lord was matter-of-fact. Their wasn't a trace of false sanctimony or pretentiousness about her as she shared her trust in Jesus in her situation. I couldn't help but smile as she said,
I got up this morning as was just so happy with how the Lord has been with me. I didn't realize I had an audience, so my spectator asked, 'Why are you raisin' your arms like that and waving them around?' I told 'em, 'I'm just praising the Lord and asking Him what He wants me to do today!'
Her husband Dave, a wonderful person full of good humor and inner strength as well, joined us as Nelda continued sharing about her experiences, describing the amputation - amazingly done with local anesthesia - with grit, humor and a consistent emphasis of her trust in the Lord every step of the way! When I left the hospital, I felt as if I had gotten at least as much encouragement as I had given myself and thought back to 2 Corinthians 1 - God comforts us in our trouble so that "we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
Reciprocal blessings dispensed by a loving God Who has provided us with all that we need, even in our most troubled times. As you go about your way this week, and you find yourself facing someone who needs an uplift, call on the God of all comfort who promises to provide enough comfort for you and the person you are helping as well as many more you will meet in the days,months and years ahead. Until next time...