Some time ago a friend of one of my boys put a gun to his head and shot himself. He was only 16 and the son of a wealthy, notable doctor.
A few days before this young man's death, our local newspaper reported that a well-known clinical psychologist in Portland committed suicide, leaving this note to his staff:
"Tonight, I feel tired, alone, and suddenly very old. The full understanding of these feelings will come only when you, too, are tired, alone and old."
Suicides are increasing at alarming rates. French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre expressed the despair many feel when he wrote, "Now I know, things are entirely what they appear to be, and behind them there is nothing."
Thousands of people feel like Sartre, the clinical psychologist and the high school boy. They feel that life is empty. Overpowered by the idea of "nothingness," they kill themselves or seek escape through drug or alcohol addiction.
God has plenty to say about our outer pressures, inner despair and everyday struggles. The following verses of Scripture could be entitled "The God Who is Sufficient for the Pressures of Life."
"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. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
Are you hurting inside? Do you ever feel like giving up on life?
When a crisis arises, the worst mistake you can make is to pretend that nothing is wrong. To find relief from your problems, you must first acknowledge them and the inner despair they cause. Only then can you embrace the "Father of all mercies and the God of all comfort." Paul reminds the Corinthian church that it is God's nature to be merciful. God Himself is the believer's source of encouragement, consolation and forgiveness under all circumstances.
The secret of discovering God's sufficiency is found in spending time with Him. Do you spend time alone with God every day? Learn to share all of your problems and needs with Him. Say, "Oh, Lord, I believe You are the Father of all mercies and the God of all comfort. Please help me today, especially in this situation."
Have you met the true Comforter?
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Paul experienced desperate need--physically, emotionally and financially. Yet he declared, "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). From personal experience Paul spoke of a God who proved sufficient for the pressures of his life. Even Paul was not exempt from the temptation to despair, but he knew how to flee to his Heavenly Father for comfort. How else could he write that God "comforts us in all our troubles" (2 Corinthians 1:4)?
Paul so knew God's keeping power that he did far more than endure his problems. He was strengthened and blessed by them! In turn he was able to comfort others in their hardships with the same comfort he had personally received from God.
Little wonder that in 1 Corinthians 1:3-7 the word "comfort" appears no fewer than nine times. And each time, the verb is used to illustrate how God stands beside us and encourages us in the midst of our severest trials.
Unfortunately, when many Christians face trials, they forget to look to God for comfort. "I'm such a nice person," they say. "Why does God allow these things to happen to me?"
As a Christian, have you met the true Comforter? Do others turn to you for counsel because they sense God's comforting presence in your life?
Or are you a Christian who complains about everything? Do you blame God for your own failures? It must grieve our Lord deeply to hear some of the ridiculous things we complain about when He has given us so much. He must ache when He sees His children facing adversity yet refusing to call upon Him for comfort.
It's powerful when a Christian can tell someone, "Because of a similar situation I've experienced, I think I understand what you're going through. Let me share with you what God did for me."
In the ministry of comfort, God's Word comes alive, and His promises become active and real. Suddenly you understand why you went through your hardship. And, praise God, it was worth it!
Paul wrote that even the most severe pressures of daily life never separate us from the tenderness and compassion of our Heavenly Father. On the contrary, when we feel like our world is falling apart, God's power and grace are magnified. As a missionary once said, "Peace is not the absence of conflict. Peace is the ability to cope." The God of all comfort can provide that "copeability" in the midst of any crisis.
Paul is not saying that we won't face disappointment, suffering or conflict in life. But he is saying that no Christian need ever despair. Why? Because we worship the God of all comfort--the God who is sufficient for every pressure of life.