Congregation member Elaine Easterling e-mailed the Unity Prayer Group a Bible passage that I found especially meaningful. Notice how many times Paul uses the word comfort.
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 receive from God.
-2 Corinthians 1:3-4
The Greek word for comfort is παράκλησις. Its literal meaning is to come “close beside” someone. When a person is struggling or enduring a hardship, we are encouraged to comfort that person through the act of coming close beside them in their struggle.
There are many people in our world who are in need of comfort. Millions have lost jobs or had their hours dramatically reduced. They are worried about how to pay their bills. Many are sick or know someone who is sick. People are worried about the future and wondering what the new normal will look like.
How can we provide comfort for those who are in pain?
How can we come “close beside” in a time of social distancing?
We are living through a time period when a tremendous amount of people are in need of comforting. As a church, we have an opportunity to think creatively for how to come close beside people spiritually when we are unable to physically.
Paul’s message to the church in Corinth provides a couple of clues as to how to do this.
- Paul calls God the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.
Evidently, we worship a God who comes close beside us when we are struggling. Have you had moments when you have struggled during this quarantine? Have you experienced periods of loneliness, overwhelming stress, or negative thoughts that you could not get control of? The God of all comfort is willing to come beside you during those times.
Even when you are physically separate from those you love, the presence of God is always near.
- God comforts us so we can comfort others.
God wants to use you to comfort those in trouble. God does not expect you to come up with the power needed to comfort others on your own. We comfort others with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. It is by God’s power that we are able to draw near to those in times of trouble.
When you know a person in heartache, seek to provide God’s presence to them through you.
You may feel like you are drawing from an empty well. You are exhausted and spent and have no more to give. In those times, draw from the springs of living water that flow from God’s presence.
Let’s get practical. Here are some ways we can provide comfort in an age of social distancing:
– A phone call or video call and a willingness to listen to those in pain.
– Write a letter of encouragement and include your favorite Bible verse.
– E-mail a link to an impactful sermon and include a note about what you found helpful.
– Pray specifically for God to come beside a person you know is in pain.
– Make a homemade face mask for medics and first responders in Mecklenburg EMS. Susan Nunnery is collecting these. You can learn more by contacting Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Through FaceTime or Skype, read a book or talk with a child you know. Ask them how their days are going and what they have been doing. Remind the child (and their parents!) that you love them, and that God loves them.
– Provide desserts for Lakewood Home residents who now have to eat all of their meals in their rooms. Desserts can include pudding cups, applesauce cups, Jello cups, packs of cookies, etc. You can contact Denita Sample to learn more at email@example.com.
This Sunday we are starting a brand new 3 week series called Comfort In A Crisis. We will study specific Bible passages that will encourage us how to provide comfort, as well as be comforted, as we live through this pandemic.
“See” you on Sunday!
P.S. Here are our attendance reports since we began exclusively streaming. Note that these are the numbers of devices, not individuals, to watch an on-line service.
March 15 – Live 129; Later 52; total 181 households
March 22- Live 204; Later 48; total 252 households
March 29- Live 208; Later 52; total 259 households
April 5- Live 257; Later 41; total 298 households
April 12- Live 416; Later 233 total 649 households
Please continue to host watch parties on Facebook and forward the e-mail with the streaming link to your friends! This is a great way to spread the Good News message during a time of social distancing.