Comfort in the House of Affliction
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Have you ever visited with someone as she sat quietly watching “Antique Road Show” (which is in its 19th season this year, by the way) only to watch her jump to her feet, shrieking, “That piece of junk was worth $3,000?!? I sold mine at a yard sale for $3!” No? Well, I haven’t had that experience either (though I can imagine it).
I have had friends however who have claimed that they once possessed a Hank Aaron ball card or an original Batman comic book from the early 1960s (worth a lot of money, let me tell you) only to have had unwanted help from mom in cleaning up their rooms, losing their priceless treasures forever. Who knew, right?
At some point, though, we all inevitably lose something or have something taken from us that didn’t strike us as valuable at the time.
When you watched or heard of a senseless shooting situation, perhaps it seemed that you could never really feel as secure as you once did.
Maybe you yourself have been the victim of a burglary or otherwise violent crime. If so, you’ve lost a lot more than “things”: you have lost your sense of safety and even of innocence.
It could even be that every time a boss, politician, or religious leader makes a promise only to break it, you feel that you have been robbed of the ability to trust.
The list of things we can and do lose is endless whether we’re talking about any of the above, financial resources, health, or loved ones.
The value of these things seems all too often “un-realized” unless and until those things are either lost or are taken from us. It then makes sense to say that losing what turns out to be valuable only in retrospect leaves us bristling with outrage and overwhelmed with feelings of betrayal and anger. We may also find ourselves haunted by guilt for neglecting those things that should have been the priorities that they never were.
It’s funny but it is smack dab in the middle of loss that we may be the most profoundly met by God. While we are tempted to be destroyed by the torrents of affliction that can and do pour down upon us, God can intervene, pick us up and restore to us all that we have needed and give to us those things for which we most long.
In the book of John, chapter 11, the Bible tells of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus of Bethany, who becomes very sick. Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, also friends of the Savior’s, send word to the Lord in hopes that He’ll come and “save the day”. But, inexplicably, Jesus delays His arrival on the scene, thereby apparently aggravating the situation. As a result of His apparent lack of intervention, Lazarus dies.
Three days after Lazarus’ death, Jesus finally arrives in Bethany (which means, by the way, “House of Affliction”) and the sisters cry out to Him, “You could have saved Him, Lord. You could have kept us from losing our brother.”
Jesus’ response to the sisters’ questioning wasn’t to be angry or put-out; He was deeply grieved over their sorrow. Never say that God doesn’t understand your hurt. He understands all too well. Never think that your pain is lost on Him, for He carries the sorrow of the whole world. When the Scriptures said in this chapter that, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35), the heart of God was laid bare in just two small words.
Jesus’ answer to that heart-wrenching questioning was, in essence, “Trust Me. Just see what I now can do.” Then the Savior speaks into the situation and Lazarus is returned to life.
Whatever brokenness and loss afflicts you, God can speak into the void and emptiness of your aching heart and bring forth not only comfort, but new life: a renewal of what you really need, only now made complete and more beautiful than ever before.
Do you feel as if your sense of security has been forever lost? “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man run into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10 ESV).
You don’t feel safe? “The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9 ESV).
Have people broken their promises to you? Happily, “God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind” (Numbers 23:19a ESV). He will see to it that His promises for you all come to fruition. You must see to it that you remain in a spirit of trust and obedience in order to receive the fulfillment of His promises.
Have you lost your innocence through the behavior of an ugly world or through your own bad choices? He can cover you with His purity and restore to you a sense of “cleanness” if you’ll allow Him to do it (1 John 1:9).
Have you been rejected? Your Father in heaven cannot and will not turn His back on you. “Never will I leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b ESV).
If you are in a place of affliction, your own personal “Bethany”, take comfort in knowing that it can truly be a place to meet God. Know that He’ll suffer with you. Watch as He somehow brings new life again to places in your life that you have believed could never be really alive again.
Copyright © Thom Mollohan.
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