home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > 17th December > The Art of Comfort

THE ART OF COMFORT

Pastors come in different varieties which is why the term pastoral conjures different ideas in the minds of different people. A pastor is like the hand that is placed in the glove of a ministry position which then leads to that glove taking a certain shape of the pastor’s strengths, abilities, and spiritual gifts. Over time, if the partnership between a pastor and a congregation endures, that pastor will also be shaped by the needs and demands of those whom God has called them to shepherd. And if both that pastor and that congregation are particularly blessed by God, the breadth of the needs and demands of a growing congregation will be attended to by pastors rather than the unrealistic expectation of them being met be a pastor. But there are times when a pastor is called upon by the broader community to care for that broader community in those times of severe adversity resulting from some tragedy. Floods, bush-fires, transport disasters (air/sea/road), military incidents, famine, are just some broader community demands for pastoring that come to mind as examples. More often than not, the type of person that God equips to enter these tragedies is one who has been shaped by God through having to deal with their own tragedies. In these instances the pastoral glove takes the shape of a chaplain. A chaplain’s principal function is comfort. In writing to the Corinthians after a particularly painful series of events, the tragedy-seasoned apostle Paul was able to comfort those he was ministering to because he himself had been the beneficiary of comfort from God through others. Notice how many times he refers to comfort in just five verses of the opening chapter of Second Corinthians- 

¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction,
with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings,
so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation;
and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure
the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you
share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
Second Corinthians 1:3-7

 

COMFORTING

Chaplains generally minister outside of their church community yet on behalf of their church community. They minister the love and comfort of God through Christ to those who are grappling with the early stages of sudden grief. They become a listening ear, a hand to be held, the bearer of immediate aid, and a conduit for other practical services. They represent the God who has suffered and entered into our world of suffering, loss, and pain (as Paul stated to the Corinthians 2Cor. 1:3-7). The most effective chaplains are those who have earned the trust of those they are called upon to comfort. This is why they can be found in football clubs, schools, and certain workplaces. (It is my hope that as our church continues to develop we will have numbers of representatives from our church serving as chaplains in these various community hubs who can offer hope and comfort in times of tragedy being experienced within these clubs/schools/workplaces.)

But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,
and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you,
as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.
Second Corinthians 7:6-7

 

GOOD GRIEF

Unlike animal life, all of the aspects of human life are not instinctive. We humans have a lot to teach each other about being a fully-formed human being who is capable of love, bearing responsibility, living sacrificially for others, developing spiritual intimacy with God, worshiping, interacting courteously and respectfully with others especially those different from us, and parenting as a father or mother the next generation. Along the way of life’s path as we each learn these skills, there will be the inevitable need to also learn how to process loss. This will involve the loss of something precious, a loved one, a dream, a love. Dealing with such losses involves grieving. Ministers of comfort help those grieving to grieve well. They patiently listen as the grieving one expresses their disbelief at their loss, then their anger at someone (anyone will do) who should be or could be blamed, their regrets, then their overwhelming sadness. The minister of comfort shows the grieving that tears and sadness at their loss is both normal and healthy. They introduce them to the concept of their new normal and help them to understand that things will never be same again, and that feeling sad whenever they think of their loss is a part of their new normal. Without this shepherding, a griever’s remaining relationships can be strained beyond acceptable limits, and their use of food/alcohol/seclusion can become unhealthy for them physically/emotionally/spiritually. This is why chaplains are so valuable today. Chaplains are guides of good grief.

¶ So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:1-4

 

THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT

In the times of our deepest anguish, God is “the God of all comfort” (2Cor. 1:3). He is the One who understands our pain, our loss, our sadness. He is the One gives meaning to each of these. It is this God who not only promises to comfort all those who turn to Him in worshipful surrender, but He is the One who heals wounded souls so that they can be used by Him as agents of His soul-healing comfort to others. I am aware that there are many in our church who have experienced soul-healing comfort from God and that their tears of sadness in the process are more often than not good for our souls. Most of these ministers of comfort will never be seen on our stage or behind our pulpit, but I can also assure you that those who are regularly ministering from our pulpit are indeed recipients of the God of all comfort’s soul-healing comfort.

¶ Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father,
who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 
comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
Second Thessalonians 2:16-17

 

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

2 Comments

  1. Alan

    Excellent thoughts, Andrew, especially in the light of the Devonport tragedy two days ago. Most of us need help in knowing how best to reach out and show God’s love to grieving neighbours and friends.

    Reply
  2. LYDIA

    Yes Andrew and Alan.
    The God of all comfort.
    So many things go thru my mind. Like, the gift and ability to walk next to a person and comfort those in need, in pain, in distress who feel like their soul is being ripped apart and – even those who are waiting so eagerly to be with their Lord. Sometimes you come across a person, ‘God ordained’ who has that ‘gift’ of listening and giving comfort, bringing peace to those in distress. True you can find some in the hospitals, in churches, chaplains and pastors – and – others ‘just along the road of life’.
    It made me think of the words that you really never know another person until you have walked in their shoes awhile, which can stop us from getting sidetracked. To understand another’s pain while you look on, can only be guided by the Spirit, the Comforter who has come to stay. It is He who can stop us from being unwise in our reactions and words – on occasions where we know we have failed because we are at a loss for words at the time. We truly need Him!
    If I look back and we all can, to various happenings and experiences in our lifetime, I can only say that the Lord holds us by our hand and leads us thru it all. In this way we can comfort those who we meet who are in need…as He is the God of all comfort and healing…

    Reply

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THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.