Where do we get our comfort from as Christians when times are tough? From retail therapy? Grit your teeth? Crossing our fingers that it’ll be over soon? One of the real challenges of returning to ‘normal’ life after my stepdads funeral, was resisting a desire to punch those who said ridiculous things to me, in the name of ‘comfort’. I lost count of the number of people who encouraged me to place in my hope in things that we could never know were true. In things which I don’t deny God could do, but of which there was no proof, and could never be proved in this lifetime. So what then can we hope in when all else fails? What should we be pointing one another to?
One of the most striking memories I have from being at New Word Alive a couple of years ago, was during the singing when I glanced over at the friend next to me and noticed she was in floods of tears. It wasn’t just the tears that made it memorable though, it was that she was still singing and praising her God and Saviour. Her tears came after a talk on suffering, and what it means for Christians, just days after her mum was diagnosed with cancer. I remember thinking ‘how can she still whole heartedly praise God’? I couldn’t compute at all that being faced with real, raw pain could lead to God’s praise. It felt like an oxymoron.
But yet, it wasn’t. Surely, if we believe the gospel, then the gospel must be true at all times? It’s easy enough to believe God is good when life is bumbling along nicely. Surely, though when things aren’t good, it’s necessary to believe that God is good. If not, then what use is trust in Jesus at any time in our lives? If it’s only a nice thing to believe when things are going ok, then why bother? Life won’t always be good, we’ll all face pain at some point. And that’s the conclusion that I’ve come to over the last few days. That if God isn’t there, or isn’t good, then everything else is even more meaningless.
So, where should our comfort come from? Surely it needs to be from the character of God, and who He is. The Christian friends that have patiently listened and repeatedly pointed me back to God’s merciful, loving and gracious character are the ones who by far have provided the most comfort. Let’s not try and comfort people with things we have no way of knowing are true, but instead with those things that we know are true and will never change. The attributes of our loving, missional, saving God.