Comfort and Affliction

“You have a subtle gift for comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” Dr. Dan Wilson, speaking to me. 🙂

At first I wasn’t sure how to take that statement, but it’s grown on me in the last year or so. I like it because it means that, hopefully, my ministry more and more consistently reflects the Gospel because that’s exactly what the Gospel does. It comforts and afflicts. It encourages and convicts.

Jesus was the Word personified, and He both comforted and  afflicted. He cleaned out the Temple and confronted the Pharisees, afflicting the religiously comfortable.

But He also gave the Samaritan woman a look at her hopeless life that had been afflicting her and comforted her by offering the Living Water of Himself.

The Gospel still comforts and afflicts us today. Or at least it should. It afflicts the areas of our life in which we fall into comfortable religion, challenging us back to relationship. It comforts us with grace and forgiveness when we fall one more time to our sin that so easily entangles, whatever that sin may be.

Do you allow the Gospel to both comfort and afflict you? Do you allow God to use you as an agent of both comfort and affliction in the lives of those around you?

When we speak and live the Gospel consistently, we can’t help but do both, because the Gospel made Flesh did both. As believers, Little Christs literally, we should both afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.

Just make sure you allow the Word to do the same to you first. Acting in the flesh gets it backwards every time and we end up comforting the comfortable and further afflicting the afflicted. Just ask Jesus- He was the afflicted that was afflicted by the comfortable.

Jesus and Suicide

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Matthew 4

One of the greatest blessings of teaching at a Christian school is that once a week, we worship together in a chapel service. The worship through singing is led by our students, and then we usually have a guest speaker share a message with us. It is a midweek refuge, a time set aside to stop the rush of classes and homework and grading and teaching and discipline and meetings to just gather together around the Throne of Grace and remember that before we are teachers, students, and administrators, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a time I treasure each week.

This week in chapel, a minister named Walt from The Hopeline came to chapel and shared with our students about their ministry. Through his message he gave them a wide open opportunity to begin some real heart conversations about real issues they face everyday: abuse, bullying, cutting, pornography, sex, drug use, and suicide. By just speaking the words with love and compassion, in a church sanctuary, with no judgment, no horror, no hatred of the thought of those struggles, he gave our kids permission to speak safely about the deepest struggles of their lives, and I love him and his ministry for that.

In the course of his talk, he made one comment that has stuck with me. He was talking about suicide and he mentioned in passing that Satan tempted Jesus to “just jump”. He was referring to the three temptations Satan presented to Jesus after His 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.

When considering that passage in Matthew, I have thought of Satan tempting Jesus with His trust of God the Father and His Word. He tempted Jesus to jump based on Psalm 91:11-12 in which the psalmist wrote: “11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12 On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” Satan was essentially saying to Jesus, “Jump. See if your Father really meant what He said in that Psalm.”

I wonder if Satan wasn’t also tempting Jesus to take control of His own life.
Jesus had just spent 40 days in the desert preparing for his time of ministry. I don’t know what the Father revealed to Him during that time. But I have no doubt that, at that moment on the Temple, Jesus understood fully His purpose for being on the planet; to teach, to heal, to save, to confront, to love, to be betrayed, to suffer, and to die. I can imagine that, standing on that highest pinnacle of the Temple, thinking through all He knew he was about to face, this thought could have crossed His mind: “He’s right. Just jump. Why go through all of that if I don’t have to? The Father may want me to sacrifice myself, but it is my life to put down and take back up (John 10:17-18). I can put it down now and avoid all of the pain and suffering I am about to endure.”

Jesus was tempted with suicide. He was tempted to just jump. To take the easy way out. To avoid the betrayal, mocking, fatigue, pain, suffering of life on this planet and return to heaven where He was worshiped and adored.

But He didn’t. He put Himself aside, emptied Himself, denied Himself, and “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). He was tempted in the now and said no because He knew there was a greater weight of glory to receive in eternity through the suffering (2 Corinthians 4:17).

So what do you do when the overwhelming “NOW” tempts you to “just jump”?

  • Remember that we have a High Priest who has been tempted in every way, yet without sin.
  • Be like Jesus; quote Truth, take the thought captive.
  • Take the moment to stop the spiral into now and bring yourself back to an eternal perspective. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
  • And tell someone. Expose that temptation to the Light. Call a trusted friend.
  • Call the Hopeline at 1-800-394-4673.
  • Go to their website,, and chat with someone.
  • Text DMHopeline to 63389 and just reach out to someone.

But more than anything, remember that Jesus knows the thoughts you’re thinking; he may very well have been tempted with those thoughts Himself. He understands the feeling of exhaustion and despair and wanting it all to just end. But through His endurance, He provided for us an eternal way out of the pain and misery of being separated from the One True Healer. He gives you the way out of it. He suffered and showed us how to suffer for the glory of God, with a perspective on eternal glory and not temporary suffering.

Do you deal with thoughts of suicide? Do you know someone who does? How could this thought of a Savior who has fought and overcome the same temptation bring comfort and encouragement to a life full of pain and heartache? How does Christ’s victory over death heal our broken hearts?

I will leave you with this comforting and hope-filled passage:

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4

Do you need mercy and grace to endure in your time of need? Draw near to Him. He knows you pain and suffering, intimately and personally, and knows how to overcome it.

Be Still, My Soul

Such rich theology, comfort and knowledge can be found in old hymns. I had a sweet time of fellowship around a piano last night with two dear friends. They were preparing for an upcoming retreat where they are leading the worship, and they allowed me to sit in on their planning and rehearsing.

While they were going through songs, we had a great conversation about old hymns and new songs, but the thought occurred to me that, while newer songs tend to bring much comfort and encouragement and are upbeat and about the love of our Savior, there is much comfort and strength in the face of suffering that can be found in the old hymns.

I wonder if it is not because much inspiration can come from much suffering. This is one of my favorite “soul comforting” hymns. A friend shared the lyrics on her blog a week or so ago, but I wanted to share them as well.

If you are in a tough time, if you are desperately seeking Truth and seeking after the face and comfort of the Lord, spend some time meditating on the words of this song.

Be Still, My Soul
By: Katharina A. von Schlegel

1. Be still, my soul:
the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently
the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God
to order and provide;
In every change,
He faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul:
thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways
leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul:
thy God doth undertake
To guide the future,
as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence
let nothing shake;
All now mysterious
shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul:
the waves and winds
still know His voice
Who ruled them
while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul:
when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened
in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know
His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe
thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul:
thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness
all He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul:
the hour is hastening on
When we shall be
forever with the Lord.
When disappointment,
grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot,
love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul:
when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed
we shall meet at last.

5. Be still, my soul:
begin the song of praise
On earth, believing,
to thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him
in all thy works and ways,
So shall He view
thee with a well-pleased eye.
Be still, my soul:
the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds
shall but more brightly shine.

What encouragement do I find in these five verses?

1. Things in this world will cause my heart to stir, be grieve, to break. Pain and suffering are a part of life in this fallen world.

2. God knows this better than I do, and He is ready and prepared to comfort in those times.

3. People fail one another. But God is all knowing and is faithful to replace that which leaves with a blessing beyond imagination. There is no true loss with the Father; only great gain of something better.

4. One day, there will be no more pain, suffering, betrayal, struggle. Jesus has promised he is going to prepare a place for us and we will join him there.

5. We cannot wait until that time to begin living in that reality. We need to still our souls in the here and now, preparing ourselves for that time.

How do you still your soul in times of trouble?