Thursday, June 11, 2015

Surpising comfort

I'll never forget a lesson I learned when I was a young believer, growing in my faith, about the importance of not focusing on my burdens. It came at a time when I was carrying a big burden - my oldest brother had suffered a head injury in an accident, and was in a coma as a result. He had been flown from Colorado to the old VA hospital in Minneapolis, and I came down from where we lived, along with my sister, to see him and my mother, even if he could not see us. My other brother was in a different hospital as well, with complications from a surgery the previous year, and my father was with him. Three brothers; two hospitalized. That was a heavy burden that fall. We three (Mother, Sister, and I) talked together, prayed together, cried together, talked to my brother in his coma, sat silent together, and did all the very limited things a person can do in a hospital room like that one and that situation. On the way up from the lobby to the room I had spotted a sign for a chapel, and I felt an urge to go pray there. After some wandering down wrong turns and retracing of steps, I finally found it and went inside. I sat down on a chair in the very simple room and just as I started to pray, a man in a wheelchair rolled into the chapel. In those days I would pray out loud, so I stopped praying, confused; God had prompted me to come here to pray, but why interrupt it by bringing someone else there as well? I needed the comfort of His presence; how could I find it if I was praying silently so as not to disturb someone else? I know, it sounds ridiculously selfish and immature, and it was. But God is gracious in growing the immature; I distinctly felt Him prompting, "Go talk to that man." I remember looking at him, and thinking, "But he looks like he just wants to be alone." I got up, and went over to a table on which various pamphlets lay, and browsed through them, not really seeing them because I was wrestling with God over talking to the other man. I went through a few silent minutes of internal debate, and finally went over and blurted out, "I feel like God wants me to talk to you and let you know He cares about you." The other man looked at me in astonishment and said, "I came in here because I felt God wanted me to come in here and tell someone that God cares about them too!" We looked at each other in amazement, laughed, and then shared the different burdens we were carrying that brought us to that room. It says in II Corinthians 1: 3-4, "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." (NIV, 2011) Paul talks about the sufferings of the Christian becoming the means through which we can help others find strength to bear up under their burdens as well, and it has stuck with me to this day - when I focus on what is going wrong in my life and how unfair it is, I miss the chance to receive grace in the middle of it to pass onto others who need the same kind of reassurance, care and hope that I need. And surprisingly, it is often in that turning outward, out of our own burdens into the burdens of others, that we then receive the comfort and care we are craving for. Life is tough, and it's often unfair; who do you know that's experiencing that reality? Comfort them.

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