Comfort dog? Or Comfort God

As humans, we desperately search for comfort.  Hotels, cars, furniture, clothes, even foods, all advertise and try to lure us in because of the comfort that they provide.  We long for comfort.  We long for true fellowship and the comfort that it brings.

We struggle to find it in ourselves and in each other.  So we look for it in things.  And we look for it in God’s other creatures.  Comfort animals have become the latest “in” thing.  No one asks to bring a comfort human with them wherever they go, but there are plenty of requests for comfort peacocks, comfort rabbits, comfort bearded dragons, and, of course, comfort dogs.  In the last several years, the numbers of individuals carrying comfort dogs in their arms, or on leashes or in crates, wherever they go has greatly increased — why?  They help fill our need for comfort.  They don’t talk back.  They don’t judge.  They are fully present and attentive with us. They appear to love us even when we feel like no one else does.  Even when we feel like we don’t deserve it.

We so long for that comfort, and we so often miss the mark as to where to find it. As usual, we have it backwards.  We look to a comfort d-o-g, when we should be looking to G-o-d.

Throughout the Bible, we are reminded where we can take comfort.  King David frequently rejoices in God’s comfort in his psalms:

My soul rests in God alone,

from whom comes my salvation.

God alone is my rock and salvation,

my fortress; I shall never fall.

Psalms 62:2-3

St. Paul also rejoices in the comfort of our Lord who has enriched us with spiritual gifts and provided us with grace through Jesus:

I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus [Christ].  God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:4-9

We don’t need a new car, or the softest fabric.  We don’t need a certified comfort animal.  God will keep us firm to the end.  He alone is our rock and our salvation.  Where our human comfort fails, God is faithful and by him we are called to fellowship with Jesus.  It is only through Him that we truly find peace, rest and comfort.  How did David and Paul know this?  Because God tells us.  He told Moses and Joshua (and tells us):

Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

He told us again through his son, Jesus:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

John 14:27

Although this world may make us feel alone and afraid, God is always with us.  He has spoken back to us, in a good way, through His word.  If we truly turn to him, we will find ourselves buried in His chest before we can even fully turn around, because He is in fact that close.  He is the peace and the comfort that we crave.  He is always fully present and attentive with us.  He loves us even when we feel like no one else does.  Even when we feel like we don’t deserve it.

Lord,

You are my rock and my salvation.  You are my comfort and my peace.  When I am lost and afraid, help me to remember to turn to you.  I want you to be my comfort.  I want to rest in your arms.  Thank you for telling us time and time again that you are here.  Help us to listen, every day and particularly when we need it most.  It is so easy to get lost in this world.  Thank you for all of your beautiful creation, including the animals that bring us comfort, and all of mankind.  Help us to do a better job of bringing each other comfort (through love and fellowship rather than material things).  Help us always know that true comfort comes when we turn to you, when we are in fellowship with you.  I want to live in that fellowship.  I want others to share in that fellowship. Help me to bring your love and comfort to others.

Its a Rocky Road to Heaven

The news is horrible for anyone to hear: a 16 year old dead in a horrible freak accident.  And of course the questions immediately follow: why?  how could God let this happen?

It is another painful reminder that we all deal with tragedies. We all deal with pain and suffering.  We all face the devil.

Today two verses overtake me:

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

God loves us.  He does not set trials in our path.  He does not want us to be hurt.  But the trade off with allowing us to have free will is — He has to allow us to use it.  He does not control us or the people around us.  What kind of life would that be?  We would be no different than robots.  We are God’s children and as His children we grow in strength and maturity.  The way we grow is by facing trials big and small.  Think about your own children: if we do everything for them, how will they grow?  If we never let them make mistakes, how will they learn?  It is terribly hard sometimes because we want to protect them, we don’t want them to be hurt, but at the same time, we have to let them go to discover things on their own, to make their own choices and sometimes suffer the consequences.  Imagine how God must feel with all of us.  Yes, He could put us in a bubble, but how would that be for any of us?  How would we grow?  How would we truly know what joy and love are if we never experience the pain?  We appreciate the sun, when we experience the rain.  (and we appreciate the Son, when we experience the pain.)

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.  But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.

James 1:2–6

God may not fix every situation for us, but He is there with us, and if we are open to it, if we ask, He guides us with a way out.  Some trials may take a lot of perseverance.  Some may feel devastating and it may seem like the pain will never end, but God is there.

I have often wondered, if He loves us how can he allow us to suffer so much pain.  The idea of us allowing our own child to die seems unfathomable.  So how can God?  As I read Corinthians this morning this thought came to me:  our trials, our pain, our suffering is human.  They are not eternal.  Our life on earth is meant to be temporary (indeed we all must die to experience eternal life).  It is like when we watch our own child play a board game or video game.  They may make mistakes.  They may lose or their player may “die”.  They may even be heartbroken (I remember throwing a board game because I was so upset).  But as parents we know that these challenges are little ones.  As they get older, we watch them with their first girlfriend or boyfriend, we see them make mistakes, we see the heart break — they may feel devastated.  They may feel like they can never move on.  Although it is sometimes painful to watch, as parents we expect it and we know it will be ok because they are still young and there are bigger things in store for them.  Similarly, God knows that our entire life on earth whether it is 2 minutes or 102 years, is just a small blip in our eternity.  We are all still young.  We are all still children.  He knows we will be ok.  Because, if we let Him, He has bigger things in store for us.

God,

Thank you for giving us free will.  Sometimes it feels like it would be easier if you would take it away and control the world around us.  Sometimes it feels like the world is more than we can take.  Help us to always see the light and the hope no matter how dark or painful the things on earth may seem.  Help us to share the light and hope with others.  Help us to persevere through any trial and to know that this world is temporary and so is every struggle.  Help us to know that you never leave our side.

 

Heal thyself

This morning I was told the common advice given to women — take care of yourself or you won’t be able to take care of others.  It is easy to get caught up in caring for others.  It is easy to put ourselves last.  Tonight, the Bible told me the same thing:

 Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew to win over Jews; to those under the law I became like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win over those under the law.  To those outside the law I became like one outside the law—though I am not outside God’s law but within the law of Christ—to win over those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some.  All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.  Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.  Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.  No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:19-27

Run so as to win.  As a former athlete, this last paragraph hits home.  We all want to win.  In life, we strive to win all sorts of prizes, awards, human praise.  We fight for little league trophies, scholarships, promotions, accolades.  Our kids spend hours at practices for sports or dance or gymnastics.  We spend hours at work for the end of year bonus or the promotion that seems out of reach.  We practice or work day and night for that human achievement.  We run faster to beat the person beside us.

Run so as to win.  But what about the ultimate prize — the imperishable one.  Are we running for it?  Are we striving for it?  Are we fighting for it?  Are we training for it?  Do we spend as much time as we do searching for human crowns?  Do we spend even half as much time?

Run so as to win.  And if we do spend the time focusing on the imperishable crown — do we remember to take care of ourselves?  Do we remember to heal ourselves?  To run our own race too?  To make sure that we are not disqualified at the end?

Lord,

Help me to train for the ultimate race.  The race that more than one can win.  Help me to use the discipline of an athlete training for the Olympics.  Help me to not run aimlessly.  Help me to help others, but not forget about myself.