Saturday, October 3, 2015

My Comfort, My Shelter

"The Comfort" by Michael Dudash

courtesy of Lysha Broad,

copyright 2011
I go to church regularly, and I pray with people regularly. It is always interesting to hear what people pray. A lot of what I hear is prayers for God’s sheltering protection; from harm, from illness, from ruin of all sorts.

Those prayers come from people who profess to be Christians as well as those who don’t. It’s instinctively human to avoid pain.

We begin learning the value of being sheltered from Day 1. Human adults are wired to protect their babies, so most of us learn from parental protection the bliss of hiding from life’s storms, held safe from harm and pain. As we grow, we carry a deep-seated instinct to seek shelter from harm wherever we can find it…in someone’s arms, or words, or deeds.

Isaiah said God had been “a shelter from the storm” (Isaiah 25:4) That Scripture reference confirms what we’ve learned…this world brings things we should avoid. Why else would God need to shelter?

Isaiah was right. God does sometimes stand directly between us and life’s storms. When He does, we just don’t feel the pain. Either we get through the intersection 20 seconds before someone runs a red light, or cells we didn’t even know we had don’t mutate into cancer, or the spouse that thought of straying doesn’t. Shelter means protection, and I’m sure God shelters us a lot more than we realize.

What does get our attention quickly is when He does not totally shelter us; the times when pain reaches us. Think about the last time you hurt….really hurt. Everyone who has ever walked this earth has felt that feeling. I have felt that pain, too. When it hits, I instinctively ask God for protection.

But many times protection does not come.

During those times of un-sheltered pain, I have often read stories of protection; both in the Bible and in motivational magazines like Guideposts. I remember thinking, “Well, God, where are MY angels? Why won’t you send some to protect me? I feel like I’ve been thrown to the wolves!”

But God plays another role in the midst of un-sheltered pain. In the New Testament, Paul calls God “the God of all comforts” (2 Corinthians 1:3 ASV) That’s a very different role from being a shelter.

God as shelter means there is pain, but God shields me from it. God as comfort means sometimes I will hurt. The mere fact that He is “the God of all comforts” makes that inevitable.

When I cry out to God in the midst of pain, my words are seldom thankful or tender. But God’s merciful answer is the next best thing to not feeling the pain. He comforts me. Whether it’s a hug, a kind word, or a pot of hot soup, comfort in tough times just can’t be beat.

Looking back at the times I’ve “talked back” to God, I now realize that was the key. Sound strange? Well, maybe my choice of words wasn’t the best…but continuing to talk to Him no matter what happened was critical. I’ve spoken to God through tears more times than I can count. I’ve spoken to Him in angry tones, in defeated tones, and in shattered tones.

Without fail, every time I pour out my unraveled emotions and reactions to the pain, He brings comfort. The pain lessens. The simple, natural act of pouring all of my raw emotions and reactions and weaknesses at His feet opens up room within me to let Him in further. As the warmth of His love spreads into the space left by everything that the brokenness drained away, I lift my head to face another day. Somehow, calmed by His comfort, I have the strength to move on.

I think He just wants me to be ME with Him. He’s a big God; he can handle me being angry with Him, or hurt with Him, or even petulant with Him. He would rather hear me tell Him that I think He’s failed me than to not speak to Him at all. He knows that’s not true; He knows that His plan in that time is just to comfort instead of to shelter.

So…sometimes He shelters and pain never comes. Other times, pain breaks through and He comforts me. In all times, there is one constant: If the pain makes it through, He is there to act as my comfort. I just have to remember that taking Him up on His offer is as easy as letting go.

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