In The Meantime Part 6: Comfort Zone
On Sunday 8th May at our morning services, we finished our series In The Meantime with the topic 'Comfort Zone'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
At the start of our service we listened to a performance version of the Beatles song 'Here Comes The Sun'. If you would like to listen to a Beatles version of this, please click here.
When we want to find comfort in something who do we most want to turn to? People who have been there before, because they are uniquely qualified. There is a kind of fellowship in suffering… when someone has suffered deeply meets someone who is suffering deeply something happens. Those who have suffered are uniquely qualified to offer comfort to those who are suffering. Comfort from those who have been comforted is life giving to those who need comfort - it even goes beyond empathy – it is life giving. But it doesn’t stop there, comforting is life giving to the comforter as well.
So today as we finish this series I want to talk about this comfort thing and once again we are going to turn to God’s story and find someone who has been through all of this. Paul was one of the first followers of Jesus and he knew was suffering was all about, he experienced it. Paul wrote letters to several of the churches that he was involved with starting and two of those letters were to people living in Corinth. In the second of those letters he writes this (2 Corinthians chapter 1 verses 3 to 7). Click here to read that passage.
Paul starts by praising God who he calls the Father of Compassion and the God of all comfort (verse 3 and 4a). Paul has opened a can of worms straight away, because if you are like me you read this and you think, hold on, God as the father of compassion and God of all comfort, why then hasn’t he taken my in the meantime thing away from me?
What we need to remember is that this is Paul who is writing this, the same Paul we talked about in week 1 of this series who had a humiliating, debilitating and incredibly frustrating medical condition that didn’t go way. Paul is still able to write, praise be to the God of all comfort. When you wrestle with this and we all do, when you wrestle with the bad things in the world and the idea of a good God, remember that the men and women who bring us God’s story understood that tension, but continued to believe anyway. Which means there is a way forward, that the pain and tragedy in this world do not mean we have to have a barrier up to faith and belief in a good and compassionate God.
So Paul is still able to give praise to God and he goes on to say “God comforts us in all our troubles”. Paul says that God is the God of all comfort and in the circumstances that he does change there will be comfort, but also in the circumstances that he doesn’t change, you can count on the comfort of God.
Paul says that God comforts us so that we can comfort others (verse 4b). There is a purpose to the comfort he gives us and that is so that we can comfort others and the word can is key here, it implies that we will be empowered.
Paul who has seen amazing miracles and healings also says that he believes in a God who doesn’t always deliver people from in the meantime seasons and circumstances so that those people can offer comfort to others.
In verse 5 Paul talks about the sufferings of Christ. Jesus knows what it is like to be human, to be hot, cold, lonely, abandoned, betrayed. I love this about Christianity, Christians believe in a saviour who knows what it is like to be human, who knows what it is like to suffer all the things that you and I suffer. And because Christians have a saviour who knows, it means that he shares suffering with us and us with him and that means that the comfort we can offer goes way beyond what we could offer on our own.
When you are suffering and you meet someone who understands it’s different isn’t it? There something about being eyeball to eyeball with someone who has been where you are. But it also true that when you comfort someone else who is going through what you have been through it lifts you too. You find a purpose in your suffering and that comforts you too.
So I want to finish by summarising this whole series. What do we do when there is nothing we can do? What do we do when we are in an “in the meantime” season?
• Remember that God is not apathetic, he is not absent, he is not angry.
• Remember that an option in the in meantime seasons is to embrace it as a gift with a promise and a purpose.
• Remember it is possible to be content through Jesus who gives us strength.
• Remember that God can be revealed through our sufferings.
• Remember that God is maturing us.
• Remember that we are uniquely qualified to comfort others.
• Remember that there is no contradiction between a God who is good and bad things happening to us, because there is a purpose to our pain.
Finally we need to remember that in Jesus there is a saviour who knows what it is like to suffer, who knows the pain this life sometimes brings. And he is uniquely qualified because he suffered and lived as we live to offer comfort and hope.
Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)
1. Do you tend to learn from the wisdom of others or from your own mistakes? How has that tendency increased or decreased suffering and adversity in your life?
2. Talk about a time when you were comforted by someone who had experienced circumstances similar to your own. How did you benefit from that person’s perspective?
3. What is the connection between praising God in the midst of suffering and being able to comfort others? Does that connection sound too good to be true? Why or why not?
4. Have you ever had the opportunity to comfort someone because you’d experienced something similar to what he or she was going through? If so, how was that experience life-giving for that person? How was it life-giving for you?
5. Someone once said “Our capacity to comfort is determined by the degree to which we’ve suffered.” Respond to that statement. In what ways is it hopeful? In what ways is it scary?
6. What can you do to begin to receive your adversity as a gift from God and leverage that gift to comfort others? How can this group help you and support you as you take a next step?