Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Comforter

With everything happening in the world today, it is understandable that some might come to despair. The recent events in El Paso and Dayton may cause some to believe that we really aren’t safe anywhere. That is a disturbing idea with which to wrestle. While such thoughts may be a little exaggerated, it cannot be denied they bear some truth. As humans, our lives are fleeting. Mass shootings are scary, but the truth is that people lose their lives every day with far less spectacle. That is how it’s always been, and we have to understand and appreciate just how short and fragile life can be. These big events do force the masses to contend with mortality in a way that differs from the deadly car accidents or the all too common homicides that happen every day, and those rooted in the Lord can see that there are lessons to be learned from all of it.

When events, big or small, raise feelings of fear and hopelessness in us, where can we turn for refuge? For Believers, God’s Word should always be seen as a viable option. The Bible is packed with knowledge and information that we should find of use in nearly every situation. However, even then, one must temper expectations. If someone is expecting the Bible to give an easy answer and simply say “Everything will be alright,” that person might be disappointed. Jesus told his followers that things would get much much worse before they got better.
For then there will be great distress unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again. “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. – Matthew 24:21-22
A whole book in the Bible, Revelation, is dedicated to the prophecy that describes what has been called the “End Times,” the period in time to which Jesus alluded. None of this should be surprising to seasoned Believers. People have been acutely aware of the doom and gloom portended in parts of the Bible for generations. Throughout the years, every cataclysm, every war, every great source of misery have all led many to wrongly conclude that those end times had finally arrived. If none of those great trials and tribulations were what Jesus was warning about, then how bad must the future events be? If the great plagues of the past, the world wars, genocides, and extreme natural disasters that have claimed so many over the years do not rise up to the level of what Jesus spoke, how dire will humanity’s situation be when the chosen time finally comes?

To dwell on such questions in the midst of hardship and trauma would certainly not help the psyches of anyone trying to contend with the harsher elements of our world, and truthfully too often in the history of our Faith people have gotten bogged down in obsessing over the negativity promised in the Bible. There was a time in the U.S. when many of the most prominent Christian figures focused almost solely on the promised bad. These so-called “Fire and Brimstone” preachers did their best to scare their parishioners into righteousness.

While what they preached may have been Biblically sound, they were misguided in the message they were sending. No one who believes in Jesus should ever dwell in fear or worry. Yes, Jesus spoke of a time to come when things would get bad, but he also pointed out that those who follow God will always have his protection and care. Jesus warned of impending doom so that we would be prepared not because he wanted us to live our lives paralyzed by fear over what is to come. In fact, Jesus made it clear that worrying over what tomorrow holds is a pointless endeavor.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of your by worrying add a single hour to your life? – Matthew 6:25-27
Jesus wasn’t just telling us not to worry about the big things to come. He was telling us to not even worry about the things we have to contend with from day to day. We are to understand that God will provide for us and will ensure that whatever happens will work out for the best for all of those who follow him. Still, it takes a tremendous amount of faith to throw off the worries and concerns of the world. The pursuit for needs like food, clothing, and shelter is ingrained in us. Rising above that would be a difficult task indeed. Still, over the course of our lives, if we remain faithful and observe what happens around us through the light of that faith, we will be able to see God at work, and his great works should only serve to strengthen our faith.

Not only that, but God understands how we feel. That’s part of the reason why he sent Jesus to us. Jesus was a human and went through everything humans do. So, while he never succumbed to fear, doubt, and worry, he knew what those things felt like. He knew how to rise above them, and he knows how to help us do the same. He is our advocate. He lived for us. He died for us. He rose for us, and even now his Spirit is inside of everyone who believes. When the time of his sacrifice approached, he knew what his fate would mean to his followers. He knew the worry it would cause for his disciples. He was the one about to be tortured and killed, but he still took the time to comfort them.
Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. - John 16:19-22
Jesus said those words to comfort those that loved him, and though they were spoken a couple thousand years ago, they still ring true today. The Lord understands that there is much in this world that grieves us, but there will be a time when that grief ends. Jesus will come back for those that love and believe in him. From that day the miseries of this world will be just a thought of the past, and that should be a comfort to all who believe.
Chris Lawyer
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