On the fourth day of Christmas Comfort, here are four things to keep in mind as you endure. Some of these things may seem surprising. However, they are important to remember.
God Comforts You Directly
There may be plenty of times where we don't feel like God comforts us. That's because it's possible for us to be distracted from his divine comfort. But God works even despite our failings. God is taking care of you in the midst of your suffering, even if you are not consciously aware of it.
This truth is confirmed in 2 Corinthians 1:3-6. Paul tells us that God comforts us. He comforts us in every affliction. And this causes us to be able to comfort others with the same comfort that we have received from God. This means that Christians are capable of providing others with divine comfort. Let that sink in for a moment. We are capable of comforting others, and there's no doubt there. But we have to stop and recognize that we as Christians endure suffering, receive comfort from God, and then we are equipped to offer God's comfort to others.
This also means that not only are we comforted by God directly, but also by God indirectly. We are indirectly comforted by God through his people. At times it might seem difficult to receive comfort from others; we might just want to be left alone. That ultimately isn't helpful, however. God wants to comfort us directly and he wants to enable his people to be sources of comfort as well.
We Are Comforted By the Body of Christ
In light of our last point, it's clear that we as Christians need comfort from other believers as well. This is one of the ways that we demonstrate the authenticity of our salvation (Hebrews 6:9-12).
Certainly, the question arises, how do we do this during a pandemic? The simple answer is that we do this the same we've always done it. We purposely make time to spend and minister to each other. This may include civil disobedience in certain situations where limitations are placed. However, it doesn't necessarily have to. One can still abide by COVID restrictions and be intentionally involved in someone else's life for their good.
I recall times of visiting those with premature newborns who couldn't come into contact with adults. Those visitations took place with me in the backyard and the family in the house, through their glass sliding doors. It certainly wasn't as enjoyable as a normal visit, however, it was still helpful.
The main issue here is don't make the COVID restrictions an excuse to not comfort others or not to receive comfort from others. When in doubt, receive comfort even without restrictions.
We do Suffer for Our Good
It surprises me that there are times when people reject this point. I think there are some who have experienced suffering that was extremely difficult. And in the midst of that experience, they may have heard how they are suffering for their good. It might be that someone carelessly said this.
There's plenty of times where Christians don't know the right thing to say. They want to help and they want to remove someone's pain because it's uncomfortable to see others going through suffering. But typically, there isn't a right thing to say in some situations. Sometimes, we need to be silent and be present. Sometimes just being there is the right thing to do. Still, some Christians feel the need to say something and they usually have a small list of premade statements that they feel are appropriate for certain situations.
We might hear, "God is sovereign," or here Romans 8:28-30 quoted. These things are true, but they may be poorly timed. God is sovereign, but that doesn't mean we know how he is sovereignly working in each situation. We know that Romans 8 is telling us that God is working for our good, however, he might be working painful discipline in someone's life for their good. In which case, it's best to wait to find out how God is sovereignly working.
Even though there are plenty of situations where we should probably not use Christianese to try to comfort others, if we are suffering we should remind ourselves of truths. This is confirmed in 1 Peter 1:3-9. There, Peter tells us that our suffering produces a tested faith that is worth more than gold. Because we believe, Peter says that because of our faith, we wait for Christ and it produces inexpressible joy filled with glory.
Don't resist comfort from other Christians, but also don't be afraid to express to someone that their catchphrase is not really helpful at this time. However, you should work to get to the point where Biblical truths are refreshing and comforting your soul.
God Does Give Us More Than We Can Handle
One catchphrase that is always unhelpful is that God doesn't give us more than we can handle. This is unhelpful because it's not true.
God does give us more than we can handle. And he does it for his own Glory. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 teaches that we experience more than we can handle. And it tells us why. It's so that we don't rely on ourselves but on God.
God gives us more than we can handle because he shows us the futility of relying on ourselves. God gives us more than we can handle to show us that there are such things that are too great for us to handle. But nothing is too great for God to handle. Nothing is outside of his sovereign control and power. And by his strength and by his carrying us through, we can come out on the other side. Even if the other side is eternity. We may experience too much, more than we can handle, for the rest of our lives. But we can do so by God's grace and strength.
Paul begged three times to have a thorn in his flesh removed and the answer was no. This didn't cause Paul to give up but caused him to seek a different way of enduring. The only way of enduring. The power of Christ and the grace that he gives.