Thursday, August 26, 2010

Self-pity, or...?

What do you do if you move to a foreign country, become permanently disabled, and your spouse dies?

It would certainly be understandable if you wanted to lie around feeling sorry for yourself for a while (hey, I probably would), but then what?

Today's New Testament reading is from 2 Corinthians 1, where Paul talks about troubles: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ... who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Two things stand out to me from this passage: first, that when troubles come, I need to seek comfort from God. He's willing to comfort but I need to be willing to accept it. This isn't as easy as it sounds; we sometimes blame God for the calamities we encounter -- even (as Proverbs 19:3 says) those we bring upon ourselves.

Something that has helped me in the (mostly minor) difficulties I've faced is remembering the Lord Jesus, who endured much hostility from sinners against himself (Hebrews 12:3), though he was and is free from sin. The psalms also tell us that "He knows our frame; he remembers that we are but dust" (Psalm 103:14). Jesus Christ, our high priest, can sympathize with our weakness, tempted as he was in all things as we are, yet without sin.

The second thing I need to remember is that God wants to use my troubles, and the comfort he's given me through them, to bless others. In other words, the comfort he's given me isn't for me alone -- it's to equip me to bring comfort and encouragement to others. I know what it's like to be laid off, I know what it's like to have a foolish boss, I've had pneumonia and sleepless nights and unanswered prayers -- not like the Apostle Paul (these didn't hit me while I was out preaching the gospel or planting churches), but I have had these experiences.

And when these things hit someone else, I can offer some understanding, and I can share some comfort that I've received. I don't know why these things hit people, or why they hit one person rather than another, but I know someone who cares, and that he's always taken care of me.

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