Summary: A recent family crisis taught me many things about how this verse applies to those of us who have coped with crisis and those of us who need to cope.
The Comfort whereby I Am Comforted
It was a parking lot like any other, no unusual obstructions, no special problem places. There might have been a slight unevenness in the pavement, but that’s pretty normal, no real problem.
The day before Dad had clambered some of the less problematic places on Otter Peak in Acadia National Park. He didn’t take undue chances. After all, he had a knee replacement in January, so he’s careful. Later that day, we had climbed many steps down a hillside to reach the rocks on the beach next to Bass Harbor lighthouse. It was not a simple climb and he did ok. Again, it was a challenge, and he didn’t take chances, so he reached a decent vantage point from the rocks and got a good view.
Make no mistake, this is rugged terrain. The Maine coast and the adjoining country is broken and tumbled with huge granite boulders. To climb this stuff is safe, if you’ve got all your limbs working right. I have no limitations in this way, and I took a tumble of my own down these rocks. Not fun.
But Dad didn’t. He walked on the rocks, but it was in an asphalt parking lot, checking his oil like a responsible car owner that his foot caught in a random accident, and he fell.
He’s had problems with that hip. His doctor had told him he would need to change it out someday, but not yet. The other side was fine, so if he had fallen that direction, there would have been no cause for alarm.
But he fell, and broke his hip, and needed emergency hip surgery. They decided a replacement was the best option and he was in and out of surgery the same day. The diagnosis was immediate and the prognosis was decisive. It was broken, not dislocated. There was no possibility of a painful but quck fix. He would have to have surgery, no doubt about it.
What do you do? You’re in another state, a day’s drive out when everything’s fine. We’re even from two different places. And everything is not fine and this is a serious problem. He cannot go home, and we are called upon to figure out the best way we can help. This is an emergency if we’ve ever had one.
• Why did this happen?
• Is Dad going to recover fully?
• What will we do now?
• How can we afford to deal with this problem?
Our lives are peppered with problems. Pain is part of life in this fallen world. We cannot bemoan the fact that we have pain in our lives, that is the human condition. If we face it well, that is the Christian condition.
God gives us tools to cope. One of those tools is each other. In the larger sense, we can cope with our troubles because other people cope with theirs, some with Christ and some without, but people cope. It is an advantage we have in Christ that our redemption begins a process of change in us we call the Fruit of the Spirit. Among the fruit are virtues like: love, kindness and gentleness. These are relational virtues that teach us the best way to interact with each other. Some of us have a strong value of the Truth, but could use some additional relational skills. But these things take time and we must give ourselves over to the working of the Spirit to see them perfected in us.
In keeping with these fruit is a statement made by Paul
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 have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. (2 Corinthians 1:3-6)
So, though Paul was talking about persecution, there is no reason to assume that this principle does not apply to other kinds of hardship. In that light I want to share our spiritual experience in this crisis, to be a comfort to you and to help you see what we did that might be helpful to you.
There is a danger here, of course. Paul did not shrink from it, and today, neither will I. The danger is that by sharing how something happened, and what I believe God did in our life, I sound proud, like I am recommending myself as a model. I am not. I am blessed to have been given God’s grace over the past week and that is what I am sharing.