May 11, 2020
As the UK government plans for easing some lockdown measures, places such as retailers and construction sites could soon be opening up again. However, a return to social ‘normality’ is still some distance off.
One of my personal struggles has been with frustration. I had been visiting China for Chinese New Year and had only been in the country a couple of days when lockdown started. For my family, the impossibility of being able to leave the house to see our relatives and friends, was extremely hard to take in. But what has really helped me to accept these restrictions is the increasing awareness that I have not been alone in my struggles, however small or large.
In Paul’s second letter to Christians in Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), he writes: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.’
I found out that the words ‘all comfort’ are derived from the Greek word, ‘paraklesis’, which has a much wider meaning of comfort. It is much more than a soothing sense of comfort – it includes a spirit of encouragement as well. Furthermore, the root meaning of ’paraklesis’, is also derived from the Latin word for brave, fortis. So, the comfort in this verse is intended to be a much more powerful and meaningful kind of comfort than simply sitting down beside someone and putting an arm around their shoulder (not that it’s advised at the moment).
If you were to choose a Christian, qualified to write about comfort and strength through troubled times, the apostle Paul would be an ideal choice, especially so, because these words occur in the same letter in which he writes of his hardships in Asia. He knew hardship and sufferings to the extent that he despaired of even life itself. But he praised God for giving him all comfort in these times.
Paul would want to remind his fellow Christians that it was Jesus Christ who suffered the worst of punishments on the cross for their sakes. So, when we as Christians suffer in this life, it should come as no surprise to us because this is what it means to follow Jesus. It would be wrong to expect that, as believers, our walk with Christ will not bring any suffering. How can we look at a crucified Saviour, yet expect our experiences in this life to be all plain sailing?
But, by the same token, we should not become discouraged by knowing that suffering in some shape or form is inevitable. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul offers more encouragement to his brothers in Christ, saying that our momentary troubles are just that – temporary – and he tells them that these troubles are ‘achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.‘ (2 Corinthians 4:17).
It seems that the problem is not how much we focus on the suffering, but how much we underestimate the glory that is to come. If we look to the things that are unseen and which await us in heaven, our earthly suffering or affliction will be put into its right perspective – as temporary. And we will be reminded of what is of eternal worth in the resurrection of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:18).
We are not to be criticised for feeling anxiety about the many uncertainties in our lives. If we are searching for a new job or waiting on the outcome of an event which hangs precariously in the balance, or having to face serious health issues, it is perfectly natural that we will be feeling extremely anxious. But God does not want us to live in fear of these things. Yes, these uncertainties are painfully apparent to us, but, the real comfort is that nothing is uncertain to God. And if we are saved in Christ, our futures and salvation are certain.
Take to heart these words of comfort:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
But don’t just take my word for this – read what’s been given to us in the Bible.
By Simon Zedlewski
Simon is a marketer who attends Cornerstone Church Kingston with his wife and daughter.