When Comfort Catches You Off Guard

43235886 - boat on lake with a reflection in the water at sunset

 

That memory watching a line of boats on a river waiting for the gates of a lock open and close brings me peace. Hearing the water pour in and spill out like a giant bathtub, smelling the fumes of the idling boats, the lock gate opening for a few to slowly motor inside – in that moment, it brought me comfort. Maybe the consistency of the process, maybe the movement of the water and the boats, maybe the hot sun and breeze coming off of the river. Or maybe the childhood innocence of it all…

Thinking back, I believe that God used moments like these throughout my life to provide comfort and to reveal Himself to me. He does that, you know, reveal Himself in different ways (Romans 1:20, Psalm 94:8-9, John 14:9, Hebrews 1:1-2). Aside from those, there is another scripture, Psalm 19:1-4 ESV, that says,

The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display His marvelous craftsmanship. Day after Day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies; yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to all the world…

Whenever I read those verses, I fall in love with Him even more. He reminds me that He is personal with His children and that He is the “God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3 ESV). From high school awkwardness, family instability, college cram sessions, and relationship heartbreaks, to first job anxiety, marital disagreements, parenting learns, and ministry mistakes, God has comforted me with many locks moments. The moments are different but the same—that is a different setting but the same purpose.

There is even more to God’s purpose, though. Paul goes onto say in v. 4-5, “that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

God comforts us in any affliction and His children are called to comfort others in any affliction.

When my husband, Joe, and I were still dating, I was mentoring a teenage girl. She believed in Jesus and was wrestling with living out her faith while also living a “normal” teenage life—which in this case had to deal with friend and family relationships. After several conversations about Scripture and times praying with her, I was feeling discouraged. Why wasn’t God protecting her more? Why wasn’t the Holy Spirit helping her to understand the Scriptures? I don’t remember exactly the words Joe said to me. But I do remember telling him about it during one of our long nightly phone conversations—him encouraging me to pray for her and to continue the meetings. I also remember always feeling comforted after we hung up.

I bet Jesus’ disciples felt comfort too when Jesus said to them, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

He was spurring them on in their good work for the Lord! They would face many trials in a world full of suffering, just like we do, but Jesus wins over suffering and in Him, His followers find peace.

Maybe you can relate with one of these scenarios and are in need of His comfort:

  • Your marriage is crumbling and you’re feeling desperately alone.
  • You have been praying for your spouse and or child to come to know Jesus but they still are not interested.
  • You are a missionary who has been working tirelessly and feel you have seen little fruit from your labor.
  • You are discipling someone who continues to make decisions that aren’t good for them.
  • You and your spouse have been praying and hoping for a child but it’s still the two of you.
  • You have been out of work and are discouraged.
  • You have physical pain or are caring for someone you love with physical pain.
  • Someone in a church community has hurt you.
  • You are having doubts about your faith.
  • You believe you have been called to do a specific work for the Lord but it will require sacrifice.
  • You are grieving the loss of a spouse, child or another loved one.

Or maybe you can relate with the one I am currently facing—a broken heart for the neglected children in my community and in communities around the world.

More sure than a strong river flows and spring leaves grow on a tree, more sure than the sun rising in the east, Jesus provides comfort in any affliction and so we can glean the strength to do the same for others.

We can draw from those locks moments in the midst of affliction. The comfort that comes from a peaceful moment, a can’t-catch-your-breath laugh with a friend, a friendly smile, a warm hug, an insightful devotional, an answered prayer…or even a dreamy childhood memory.

The boats wait in a line. The water rises and then empties. The sun warm on our summer tanned faces, shines down on our laughter, silliness, innocence, comfort…I didn’t know enough of God then to know it all came from Him, as all good things do, but now I’m sure it did.

These days, He continues to provide locks moments, especially when affliction comes while doing the hard work of loving others. Maybe it comes in the form of an old hymn, a warm hug from my husband, a belly laugh from our baby boy, a prayer session with a best girlfriend, or a walk along Lake Michigan. Maybe it’s five quiet minutes for an honest cry out to the Lord and a reading of Psalm 19.

Whatever affliction you are facing, dear sister or brother, you can be sure to find comfort from the God of all comfort, your own locks moments. Maybe you only need to look as far as here.

The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display His marvelous craftsmanship. Day after Day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies; yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to all the world… (Psalm 19:1-4)

For I have overcome the world… (John 16:33)



About

With a BA in Public Communication and certificate from the Denver Publishing Institute, Shannon has worked in book publishing and ministry. She currently stays home with her son and writes when she has the time. She is grateful for her small group, coffee, the Bible and living by the lake, and she enjoys laughing with her husband and son, finding good taquerias (and then eating there), reading historical fiction, and being outside. An amusing marriage tidbit: while she and her husband enjoy doing many of the same things, like watching 24, they walk at very different paces, which they find both funny and annoying. She lives on Chicago's north side.


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