Comfort, Compassion and Care

Duane has been a friend since childhood. While our paths have diverged and converged over the years, we have always been there for each other. So when my mother passed away, Duane reached out in compassion and care. I told him that I was a “lock-down” kind of guy, that my tears flow inwardly, but seldom outwardly. Having suffered the loss of loved ones himself, he understood my situation. “Don’t be afraid to hurt,” he urged me. Duane was right: he himself had needed this advice in the past, and now he shared it with me, for I indeed feared the experience of pain.

Through the years, I’ve noticed we hold most compassion for those now incurring the kinds of trials we ourselves once suffered or still are. Personally, my compassion for people in discouraging circumstances is far greater if I have experienced them as well. My heart goes out to children who have lost a father, to adults accompanying a parent down the rugged road of cancer, and to employees who have suffered injustice in the workplace. Why? Because I’ve suffered these hurts, too.

In the mercy of God, pain breeds compassion and suffering grows care. Wrote Paul to Corinthian believers, “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.”1 God is spirit2, so He is able to assure us inwardly with His invisible yet knowable presence. He works through us, as well, to comfort others through outward expressions of care and support. Isn’t it amazing that God would honor us in this humble, helpful way? But He does! In fact, walking others through their difficulties helps us to heal from our own. This is a “God thing.”

So what does this mean for us? When we hurt, we can know that good will come from it. Though we would prefer not to travel the path of pain at all, we know from the past that God will use our pain to comfort someone else today or in days still to come. Then we should not underestimate the comfort we give others, for we are God’s lifeline to them, conduits of His care. Compassion is His nature, and He calls us to go and comfort others. This is what Duane did, and I am forever grateful.

Father of compassion, God of all comfort, point me to people who suffer as I have suffered, and grace me to be your vessel of comfort to them. Thank you for the humbling honor of blessing others as you, through others, have blessed me. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4
2 John 4:24


Seeds of Life

True confession: For many years, I sensed a certain futility to life, even though living it as a believer in Christ Jesus. So we are born, raised to be aspirational, toil to “make a living,” raise our children to be aspirational, and then we die. And so it goes, generation after generation. But as I sat beside my step-father’s deathbed during his final hours, I sensed something completely different: it was as if watching a seed dying, waiting to fall to the ground and spring forth into something far greater, unimaginably glorious, and unfading in splendor. Baptized into Christ in his later years, his faith evidenced itself in growing humility, grace and peace. God had done a marvelous work in him, and now He was working through this dying man to grow me up a bit in faith, hope, and understanding.

The apostle Paul taught that, without Christ, we are, in a way, dead men walking: “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world.”1 “At that time you were separate from Christ,” he explained, “without hope and without God in the world.”2 People across generations and cultures sense not only a life beyond this one, but also the existence of an Authority over it, for we strive to earn a place in a world still to come, yet not knowing how. We are, in this sense, “held in slavery by [our] fear of death.”3 But praise God for bringing hope to our hopelessness and closing the gap that stood between us, for Paul continues, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”4 For the believer, separation from God is already a thing of the past, and our life in Christ is now and forever new.

Then what can we say about life that blooms where death once reigned?

Eternal life is a gift of divine love, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”—John 3:16

Everlasting life begins the moment we entrust our soul to God through faith in His Son, who said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged, but has crossed over from death to life.”—John 5:24

We enter into life as a people forgiven: “When you were dead in your sins . . . God made you alive in Christ. He forgave us all our sins.”—Colossians 2:13

We live with fresh purpose, “He Himself brought our sins in His body up on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness.”—1 Peter 2:24 NASB

These verses are words of truth; they are seeds of life. God, grant us the humility to receive them, the strength to trust them, and the honor to plant them. Amen.

1 Ephesians 2:1-2 ESV
2 Ephesians 2:12
3 Hebrews 2:15
4 Ephesians 2:13


Seeds of Grace

My co-worker begged to differ. I had shared with her the Biblical message that we cannot earn our way into heaven through any accumulation of good deeds, but far greater, God lavishes His favor upon us and births us anew when we entrust our lives to Jesus Christ. My colleague, however, thought our reconciliation with God could not possibly be that simple, that instead we must merit His favor through our own efforts. She spoke as proxy for billions, sadly, so I find myself wondering, Why do we naturally seek God’s mercy—the pardon from just punishment—yet resist His grace, the lavish outpouring of love, favor and acceptance we cannot earn? We understand law—crime, penalty and mercy—but God’s proactive gift of grace is hard for us to grasp and harder for us to receive.

We typically think of grace as being God’s means for salvation, our rescue from punishment, as well we should, for Paul tells us, “The grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people”1 and “it is by grace you have been saved.”2 Yet God’s grace reaches far beyond salvation, for we are also “justified [made guiltless and given right standing before God] freely by his grace through the redemption that came through Jesus Christ.”3 Moreover, only by grace do we live forever with Him, for “just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”4

Perhaps by now we are starting to intuit what John has already told us—that, yes, grace is something God gives in love, yet it is also something God is by nature. Of Jesus John wrote, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth . . . From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”5 Grace upon grace—may we receive it today, may we give it today, and may we sow its seeds today.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

He [God]has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. 2 Timothy 1:9

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7

Father, thank you for your good gift of grace. May we live in your grace and give of your grace today. In Christ we pray. Amen.

f Titus 2:11
2 Ephesians 2:8
3 Romans 3:24
4 Romans 5:21 NLT
5 John 1:14, 16 ESV