Monday, December 23, 2013

"Comfort, yes, comfort My people!" Says your God. (Isaiah 40.1)

When I read the topic for today’s blog for the 40 Days of Blogging Challenge, I was looking forward to a blog that I have wanted to write for a while. When we hear the word comfort, ‘most’ of us think of a state of emotion much where we are reassured by words such as, “That’s ok.” We also conjure up thoughts of being wrapped in our mother’s arms during the thunderstorm. I suppose I want to focus on our mother’s arms for the moment.

When we are hurt, anxious, sick, lost, confused, tired, depressed, and broken, what we need most isn’t “That’s OK,” but “I know it’s painful, but it will be better.” If our mother had told us our leg was “just fine” when in fact it was broken, instead of comfort, her words would have brought doubt. In a similar way, we need to be honest with the pain of the people we comfort, while reminding them everything will be better in the Kingdom.

This isn’t as easy as you might expect. There is a delicate balance between comfort and patronizing someone who is hurting, no matter what causes the pain. I have found true comfort rests in acknowledging the reality of the pain. I wonder sometimes if we have failed to prepare young people for failure and pain because, rather than being honest about failure, we lie to our young people allowing them to believe the world revolves around them. We have failed to be honest with the pain of our young people, who lose trust in us because they know the pain is real.

So when God commands us to comfort His people, He isn’t asking us to “sugarcoat” their pain. He wants us to acknowledge their pain. This is best by simply being with them and allowing them to express and experience their pain. I was reminded many years ago by a psychologist/counselor that I shouldn’t give a tissue to someone who was crying. It sends the message, “Don’t cry. You’re ok.” But it ISN’T ok. They ARE hurting. It’s better to have tissue nearby and allow them to reach for it or ask for it.

So why was our mother’s embrace such a comfort for us? It’s simple really. They simply hugged us until the pain wasn’t so bad, and then helped us put the pieces back together again. That’s comfort! So don’t be afraid to comfort a friend in their pain. It won’t be quick and easy, but it will be simple. In a way it’s really just like the Church. The Church acknowledges our pain and helps us pick up the pieces. At least that is how it is supposed to work.
This post is written for the 40 Days of Blogging Challenge sponsored by the Preachers Institute. You may find other blogs participating in this challenge. I hope you enjoy this year’s Advent journey.

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