All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you also share in the comfort God gives us. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
I have shared this illustration before, but it is worth sharing again. In fact, this whole “morning coffee” might be familiar if you were reading this blog 18 months ago, but it is what I needed to hear again today. You see, over the weekend, a question was raised that could drastically impact our family. I could not get answers until I made some phone calls yesterday. I had to let go of my worry over this situation all weekend, holding onto my Jesus instead of freaking out over my circumstances.
Former General Superintendent, Jesse Middendorf, wrote a Sunday School lesson for the Nazarene curriculum in which he started out with an illustration from World War II. Hitler had forced many 12 and 13-year-old boys into military service during the war. These boys were treated harshly and made to do some extremely inhumane jobs for their country. When the war was over, these young boys were left homeless and without food.
An aid program came to their rescue by setting up tent cities to house the boys. Doctors and psychologists cared enough about these young men to work hard to restore them physically and mentally. They found that many of the boys would wake up in the middle of the night screaming out in terror. So they tried something unusual. Each night they would feed the boys a large meal and then send them to bed with a piece of bread to hold in their hands, instructing them to save it until morning. The boys began to sleep peacefully through the night. Why? Because after years of hunger, these boys held in their hands the assurance that there would be food for them the next day.
Do you ever go to bed with a heavy heart or with anxiety about a specific situation? I know of a few college freshmen who moved into the dorms this past weekend. They had trouble sleeping the night before they left for school due to a combination of excitement and nerves. The unknowns that tomorrow holds can overwhelm us at times.
When I have a big decision to make and I go to bed knowing that God has provided an answer for me, I sleep more peacefully. When I know how the bills at work are going to be paid and I know with confidence we are going to make payroll this week, I sleep more peacefully. But what about those times when tomorrow is uncertain, when I do NOT hold in my hand the “bread” for tomorrow? Paul has a great answer to this question as we read on in his second letter to the Church of Corinth.
We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And HE DID rescue us from mortal danger, and HE WILL rescue us AGAIN. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. – 2 Corinthians 1:8-11
It is in those moments when I do not have tomorrow’s bread to hold on to, that my hands are free to hold on to the God of my tomorrows. I stop listening to my fears. I learn how to trust God, which strengthens my faith. I stop relying on my own wisdom, I stop relying on what I have in the bank, and I start relying on God to provide.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember the Lord is coming soon. – Philippians 4:4-5
I cannot be full of joy if I am worrying about tomorrow. The NIV version says “let your gentleness be evident to all.” If I am worried, grumbling, complaining or pretty much freaking out over what is ahead of me, I am not full of the joy of the Lord for others to see.
Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus – Philippians 4:6-7
May each one of us rely on YOU for our answer today and for tomorrow’s provisions. May we rest in knowing that you are all we need. Take away from us the worrying and grumbling and fill our hearts with the peace of knowing we can rely on you. Oh God of all comfort, shower us with your joy today. Amen.