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Pastoral Reflection: Purpose of Life: Comfort

Isaiah 40:1–2
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins. (ESV)

Every place, neighborhood, city or region has its own way of identifying itself. Wall Street is associated with the power of money. Silicon Valley is identified with technology and science. Boston has its sports and its Universities. Over the past few years observing Staten Island, I’ve come to the conclusion that Staten Island is known for its pursuit of comfort and ease. This is not to say that everyone who lives here attains it or that everyone finds it on Staten Island, but that many who live here on Staten Island are living lives that pursue comfort.

Now it may surprise some that I would say that Scripture actually says that this is a good thing. We are actually called to pursue comfort. But it does require some qualification. First. it makes sense that humans would pursue comfort in a Biblical worldview. The story of the Bible explains that the sense of discomfort, and dissatisfaction that many people sense is a result of the Fall. We have cut ourselves off from the true and the living God. God is not just the Creator, he is the one who gives and sustains life. Since we have cut ourselves off from him, it makes sense that we would feel a sense of discomfort. It is the result of mankind’s rebellion against God. There is a sense of meaninglessness, a futility and a frustration. There have been several ways people have described this: “the rat race”, boredom, futility, etc.

Therefore, it makes sense that we would try to ease this sense of unease. This restlessness has caused many people to pursue happiness (or comfort) in a myriad of ways. Some seek it by pursuing of approval of people. Some pursue the fame or the applause of others by performing or putting oneself in a position of being needed. Others seek it in wealth and financial security. Still others seek it in drugs or addictions. Still others find it in entertainment, and the avoidance of boredom.

Some have come to the conclusion that this is enough- this is all that life offers and are content. Others find the pursuit of comfort tiresome and even stressful. They know that what they pursue will not bring ultimate joy, but they have no way of stopping. Change is not something that is possible. The Bible speaks of another source of comfort. This is a comfort like no other. It is a comfort that comes from God. How is the comfort from God different?

1. It is a comfort that firm and steadfast. The Psalms use a Hebrew word called, “hesed”. It is a word that is hard to translate. It refers to God’s love. It means a love that is deep, committed, steadfast, affectionate, and compassionate. Several translations render the word as, “steadfast love”, “loving kindness”. The word is used to describe God’s love in both praises and sorrows.

2. It is a comfort that comes in both good times and bad. God’s love is not limited to times of joy. There is also a love and a kindness from God that feels different in times of sorrow. There is a type of comfort that is deeper, sweeter and more meaningful in a time of sorrow. God’s love and care is a reflection of God’s character. It is not flighty or flimsy or dependent on God’s mood.

3. It is a hope of presence. When suffering, there is a comfort that comes when you are in the presence of someone grieving with you. Friends, family and love ones speak words of comfort. But there is a comfort from God that isn’t based just off of what he does, but mainly from his presence. There are times when God certainly delivers us out of difficulty, but also times when God comforts us with his presence.

4. It is a comfort that points to an eternal hope. God’s comfort also points to the eternal hope because we know that at one point or another, we will face another challenge to our faith. And at some point, we will face the ultimate challenge when we face death. God’s presence in the here and now remind us of our eternal hope that one day we will fully be in God’s presence. 5. It is a comfort that comes through a blood soaked cross. This comfort is also like no other because it was bought for us. This was not purchased using gold or silver but was bought for us through the precious death of Jesus on our behalf. We were loved by God so much that God sent his son to redeem us back for himself.

How are we to respond to this comfort from God? It is not that we should not engage in entertainment or enjoy a good meal. But we are to guard our hearts against becoming dependent on the earthly comforts. We must remember that these things are temporary and that these comforts cannot satisfy the soul like God can. If anything, this perspective puts earthly comforts in its place and makes them more satisfying. Let these things point to a greater Savior who comforts us like no one else can.