I love my devotional time. I have always enjoyed writing diaries and notes, so for me, doing a devotional in the quiet of the morning is very natural for me.
I tend to jump around with different devotional resources on my phone, and yesterday I watched a short teaching video by John Piper on 2 Corinthians 1:3-6. I jumped on it, not only because I quite like John Piper, but for the longest time these verses have been very important to me. Here is the gist of what he taught:
“We are afflicted with a purpose; afflicted so that you may comfort others with the comfort from God that you have been comforted with”.
One of the questions that he asked following this teaching was,
“Has there ever been a season in which you were especially comforted by God? How did He bring through that season?”
I began trying to think of a particular time when this had been evident to me. I went back to when I had first called out to God, as a “twenty-something” young adult, crying - despairing, really - in my room in the dark because I couldn’t make a decision about University or work, and the pressure was tremendous. I remember saying, “God! If you’re really there, help me!” And I was calmed immediately. A deep peace came over me, and I knew my journey with God had begun.
Later, when financial problems struck our young family, we were comforted by close friends, and by people who loved us so much that they snuck money onto our front doorstep and ran away, never letting us know who it was. Comfort came from parents and friends who shared their stories of struggle, and bought us groceries, reminded us that God was with us and gave our kids extravagant gifts so that they wouldn’t know of our financial struggles.
Comfort came when years ago I was struggling with depression.
I remember clearly taking a walk on the trail, coming to cross Bernard Road and telling God that I didn’t want this Christian life anymore. It was too hard. But where else was I going to go? I thought, what other choices did I have? My husband comforted me, my close friends walked with us and felt sadness with us, and His Word would not let go of me.
A few years ago I also struggled with anxiety, acutely, “I can’t-get-off-the-couch-I-need to see-a-doctor-now” anxiety. Terrified of being terrified, I was comforted by doctors, by good friends in and outside my church, medicine, counsellors and Christian authors who reminded me that God would help me.
We have been comforted by Pastors at a recent wedding we attended, sharing stories of past experiences and how they handle insecurities and uncertainties. And most recently, we have been comforted by other parents of teenagers. And oh, how we needed that!
I share all of this because at the end of this devotional, something caught my attention; it was this:
“One of the biggest threats to perseverance to final salvation is that we despair in our sufferings. How many people have been afflicted and have given up on God and leave Him? I give up God...I’ve had enough!”
Even in our little church, there are so many of you on the cusp of giving up. And the thing is, as terrible as we’re suffering, with whatever it might be, we can refuse to welcome God’s comfort. We allow pride, embarrassment, and shame, and lies, to keep our suffering to ourselves, not wanting to burden others which is the opposite of what God wants for us. And others of us keep quiet because we think we have nothing to offer. But we do.
WE MUST STOP. THESE ARE CHAINS.
“God tells us that He has ordained that people undergo affliction, so that, speaking out of our affliction, we speak comfort into others who are being afflicted so to give them strength to persevere to the end and receive salvation.” Every time I was comforted, it gave me the strength to keep fighting, to go forward, to keep believing when it was so hard.
My friends, my brothers and sisters, my heart is full of a desire to see these chains broken. We are not meant to walk alone - we can’t. I plead with you, to take a deep breath and share your despair with someone. Someone that God can comfort you through. Let Him help you overcome the discomfort and give you the strength you need.
He wants us to win, and will give us every bit of strength and breath we need to do it. Allow yourself to be comforted in your affliction, and give away the comfort that you yourself have received.
With great love,