The God Of All Comfort

I got home from work last Monday, and all I wanted to do was climb into bed and fall asleep. I had the same feeling on Tuesday. The enemy was reminding me of all the darkness in this world, as tragedy after tragedy assaulted the place that I call home. When tragedy strikes, when I’m faced with darkness, I tend to give the enemy a foothold and dwell on the tragedies that have happened in my life. I was in a tough place. I didn’t look forward to the next days and weeks with anticipation. Instead I looked to them with dread. What would happen next? What tragedy would strike? What problem would I be faced with? How would I be able to keep preaching the hope and joy that are found in Christ, despite deep darkness and real pain?

Thankfully, I have an amazing wife.

She gave me space to feel, to hurt, to shed some tears, and to rest.

Yet she made sure that I didn’t create space away from God. She made sure that I didn’t dwell on the enemy, she made sure I stayed active and thankful to God for the gifts He has given me.

She encouraged me to get into God’s Word, even when I didn’t feel like it. She encouraged me to actually commune with God, rather than just check things off a list. Thank God for her.

I have opened up my Bible this past week, reading various books. I have found comfort in a surprising place. Deuteronomy.

There are chapters upon chapters of laws in the book of Deuteronomy. They are absolutely important, but they’re not exactly the place where you might would think to find a solvent for an aching soul.

The prelude to these laws is in fact a place of great comfort to me however.

You see, in the first several chapters of Deuteronomy we hear the words of Moses to the people of God, as he recounts for them all the wondrous things that God has done for them. All the ways that He has intervened on their behalf up until this point of the Bible story. It was in reading these things that God had done for His people that my mind began to be filled with all the ways that God has worked in my life as well.

One particular image leapt off the page at me, and I’ve used it to guide my prayers this past week.

So I said to you: Don’t be terrified or afraid of them (them being great massive giants in the promised land)! The Lord your God who goes before you will fight for you, just as you saw him do for you in Egypt. And you saw in the wilderness how the Lord your God carried you as a man carries his son all along the way you traveled until you reached this place. – Deuteronomy 1:29-31

Side note. This passage at the beginning of Deuteronomy is Moses talking to the people of God about the previous generation and how they failed to listen to his words. The previous generation didn’t take these words of Moses to heart, instead rebelling against God, leading to their destruction and wanderings in the wilderness. 

That last phrase is what God used to speak to me in this season.

God carried His people out of Egypt, through the wilderness, like a loving father carries his son.

Years ago, my family got a bit lost on a hike at a state park here in Texas. My younger brother Matthew was really little at the time, and the heat was beginning to take a toll on him. My dad scooped him up and carried him until we made it back to the parking lot. That’s what loving fathers do. My dad would have been wicked if he had no regard for my brother’s exhaustion.

Our Heavenly Father carries us.

In times of complete exhaustion mentally, physically, and emotionally, God is there for you and for me.

The phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is ludicrous and found nowhere in the Bible. It’s plain stupid.

Rather, God helps those who know they need Him.

This week I needed God. I needed Him to carry me. I needed Him to lift me up. I was spent.

As I sought truth in His Word and His face in prayer, I found the comfort I needed to keep moving forward.

Let’s look at one more passage real quick.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort . . . . For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. – 2 Corinthians 1:3, 8-11

Pastor Jason Meyer sees an alliteration in these verses that I believe will help us all.

Here’s the process.

Desperation. Dependence. Deliverance. Doxology.

Paul and Timothy make clear in verse eight that they were burdened beyond their strength (which reminds us that the phrase “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is also a lie that’s not found in the Scriptures). They were desperate.

Paul and Timothy’s sufferings led them to rely not on themselves, but God. We see this in verse nine. They became dependent on God to comfort them and to rescue them.

God is a God of comfort. All comfort. All mercies. God rescued Paul and Timothy from their difficulties. That’s not just part of what God does, it’s who He is. It’s in His character.

Where did this deliverance lead Paul and Timothy? It led them to praise. It led them to thanksgiving in verse eleven.

This word comfort meant “to strengthen” in Paul’s day. God did not put a blanket around them and give them a nice warm tea. He gave them strength to keep fighting, to keep going.

God has carried me this past week. He has kept me going. I can’t help but praise Him publicly for this.

I don’t know where you find yourself today.

Maybe you’re where I was last week, trying to cling to any semblance of light.

Maybe you’re in such a dark place that you can’t remember the last time you awoke with enthusiasm.

Maybe you’ve had year after year of brutal battering.

Know this.

God is your Father.

He is carrying you.

God is a source of comfort. Know amount of Pizza Hut pizza, Blue Bloods, NBA basketball, or friendships were going to lift me up last week. It had to be Him.

If you’re desperate, tell Him you are dependent on Him. He will bring deliverance, and this will lead to praise.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Jesus Wept

Lazarus was dying. He was terminally ill and his sisters were in desperate need for a miracle. Good thing they knew a Miracle-worker. They knew Jesus. Jesus had dined with them, they worshipped Him as God and they knew He was capable of healing the sick. So they reached out to Him. They sent for Him. They sent Him news that Lazarus, whom Jesus loved, was sick. Then they waited. And waited. And waited some more. Lazarus died and there was still no sign of Jesus.

This story in John 11 is one of the most painful circumstances in the gospels in my mind. I try and place myself in the Biblical stories, especially the stories of Jesus in the gospels. I imagine how it would feel to have a loved one dying, to be crying out to God day after day, only to have the one I loved pass away. For some of you who are reading this, this requires no imagination. You’ve lost a parent, a friend, a husband, a neighbor, a coworker. You have faithfully served God and pleaded with God and yet God didn’t answer your prayers the way you had hoped He would.

This week in particular several of my friends have been facing loss in their families, unexpected loss. I don’t have the words to say. My heart is broken and burdened. I get home and think about God’s plans and purposes. I am not a pie-in-the-sky optimist and the Bible is not designed to create that mentality. Instead, the Bible is full of painful stories that are infused with the hope of Christ. I try then to share this hope with those I love.

The death of Lazarus in John 11 brings so many truths that lead to hope. Look at them with me. These aren’t alliterated because I guess I just haven’t been in ministry long enough to obtain that gift.

1. OUR WEEPING MESSIAH

To me, this is the prerequisite truth before one shares about the purposes of pain in our lives. Too many people have been turned off to the church because those who genuinely love Jesus and strive to love others through their grief lead with the fact that ‘God works all things for good and we are to count it all joy’. Many who have a high view of God’s sovereignty I think often miss this part, jumping to doctrinal truths before mourning with those who mourn. We miss the point when believing in God’s ultimate control over all things makes us horrible neighbors and brothers who are cold-hearted, intellectual, and jaded towards the hurting. That’s been me on many occasion, yet it’s missing the heart of Jesus. Cause here’s what Jesus did. It’s the shortest verse in all of Scripture.

Jesus wept. – John 11:35

There it is. Our Messiah, our Miracle-working divine Son of God wept with Lazarus’ friends and family in the wake of his death. Jesus is omniscient, He knew full well that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet He wept. This is such powerful encouragement to us in our pain. Jesus weeps with you. God’s heart breaks when your heart breaks. God’s knowledge of His plan for our pain does not lead him to distant coldness of heart. No, to see His child in pain causes Him to mourn with us. Share your hurts with Him.

2. THE PURPOSE FOR PAIN

While I believe that this shouldn’t be the first thing we say to those who are grieving, it most definitely needs to be said. Maybe not for days or weeks after loss, but eventually. In my daily pains of this broken world, I have to tell myself of this. There are two verses that illustrate why pain comes into my life. Why my loved ones die and experience the affects of this world.

But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” – John 11:4

and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there (when Lazarus died), so that you may believe; but let us go to him. – John 11:15

These two verses give us the answer to the ultimate reasons for our pain. Everything in my life happens so that:

A. God will be glorified

B. People would believe in Jesus

That’s it. Now again, this truth devoid of genuine care for the heart and soul of our brothers and sisters is cold, twisted, and unworthy to bring one to worship. This truth without the character of God leads one to feel like a pawn in a divine game of chess (I’m speaking from experience here). But this truth coming from a God who weeps with us, who hears our cries, who loves us, becomes a spark to the light the fire in my heart for me to worship God, even in the midst of immense pain.

3. ETERNAL LIFE 

The Lazarus story has an amazing ending. Jesus raises him from the dead to the awe of all who saw. We thus see clearly how Jesus was believed in and God was glorified as a result of what took place. For other stories in our lives that isn’t always the case. My brother Trevor’s story still has not resolved in a way that has clearly done the above two things, at least not in my heart, and it’s been almost two years since he took off. Our stories don’t always wrap up with a cute bow and a clear picture of God’s plan.

But here’s the most hopeful part of this story. Infused in this story is yet another “I Am” statement of Jesus. I’ve been walking through these this summer and they have amazed me. The character of Jesus is beautiful. What He claims to be and promises to be is amazing.

Jesus said to her (Martha), “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies. – John 11:25

There you have it. The promise of eternal life.

When I was growing up, I kinda thought of the abundant life Jesus offered as starting after death. Like if you make through earth than you get this amazing offer of eternal life.

Yet Jesus is claiming with this proclamation that He is the resurrection. He brought the full life. To follow Jesus is not to wait until we die to experience the fullness of life that Jesus offers. Yet so many of us live like this.

Jesus is with you.

If you have put your faith in Jesus, He walks through life with you. He weeps with you. He glorifies Himself in you. He brings life to the death that is in your life.

I pray you are encouraged by the story of Lazarus.

Please know that if you are in need of prayer, you can reach out to me. Shoot me an e-mail or a Facebook message.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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He Holds It All Together

It’s been a draining couple of days in Vernon, TX. My days have been chock full of ministry-related activities, and the busyness (albeit really exciting busyness) of moving Jamie into our duplex. Last night I wrestled with whether or not to wake up early and head to Wichita Falls for the youth pastor (and worship leader) breakfast I am a part of on Thursday mornings. I felt so tired (having been going from 6 AM to 9 PM) and didn’t feel like getting up. That being said, I felt the call of God for me to not abandon community just because I may be tired. So I set my alarm and headed into Wichita Falls. The breakfast was refreshing, I found myself encouraged and grateful for the community that I was a part of.

Just as we were wrapping up, I received a text. Tragedy had struck in Vernon. It is not my place to say what it was, but I was confronted yet again with the brokenness of the world that we reside in. The whole day has been solemn and somber, and tears have not been far from my eyes when I’ve had moments of quiet and isolation. As a young youth pastor, I’m walking through the brokenness of this world more days than I would like to, as I see the pain that so many congregants and students have to walk through some days.

I went about my usual Thursday routine before pausing just a little while ago to spend some time in Scripture. I read through the first chapter of Mark and when journaling about it I remembered what Scripture says to be true, what I believe the whole first chapter of Mark is all about:

Jesus is the Son of God, full of all the compassion and power of God.

The first chapter of Mark is a whirlwind of activity and snapshots of Jesus’ early ministry. In just one chapter we see John the Baptist prepare the way, Jesus get baptized, Jesus call his first disciples, and Jesus preaching and healing throughout Galilee, whether that be casting out demons or healing leprosy. In the midst of all this, there are key points that illustrate what I mean.

First off, verses seven and eight show the majesty of Jesus before He even arrives on the scene so to speak.

And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. – Mark 1:7-8

John the Baptist says that he isn’t even worthy of untying Jesus’ shoes. That’s humility and that’s awe in the face of majesty. Jesus is fully God and John understood this. Shortly after this we see Jesus baptized and the very Spirit of God descending upon Him (vv. 9-11). Jesus is full of all the power of God, and the rest of the chapter proves this. He preaches the gospel (v. 15), drives out demons (vv. 23-27), and heals a leper (vv. 40-45).

It’s His healing of the leper that showcases in my opinion the compassion of Jesus and the heart of God. Lepers were outcast, contagious, treated as almost less than human. A leper approached Jesus and asked for healing, bowing before Him. Jesus responded in verses 41-42.

Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. – Mark 1:41-42

I’m aware that verse forty-one is also translated at times as ‘moved with pity’ or ‘moved with indignation’, and I’m not a Greek scholar, but I am amazed by the fact that Jesus touched him to heal him. All throughout the gospels we see Jesus move with power in many ways, often healing people just via his words. Yet he chooses to reach out and touch this man that so many found unclean and disgusting. I believe that shows His compassion.

Here’s what I want you to know. There are dark days. There are days where the darkness seems overwhelming and the grief is heavy. Yet on these days, we can remember that the King Jesus we submit to and follow is full of amazing compassion and amazing power.

As a follower of Jesus, I can KNOW that God is all-powerful and TRUST in His compassionate heart. That is hard on days like today, but it is no less true.

Be encouraged by this verse as well (one of my all-time faves):

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all thing hold together. – Colossians 1:16-17

What was at one time no more than a pleasant reminder of God’s control has become over time a stake in the ground of my mind and heart to remember and cling to. God is still God and Jesus still holds the cosmos together. The sin of this world is raging and at times it’s all I can physically see. Yet I can cling to the fact that Jesus still reigns.

“By the Son, for the Son, and through the Son, all things exist and hold together.”

Jesus shows us the character and heart of God. Cry out to Him. Acknowledge His power and trust in His compassion.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Bad Days

Today was one of those days. Maybe you’ve had a day like this. I woke up with my heart all twisted up inside of me. Anger. Bitterness. Frustration. Sadness. It was the combination of many circumstances and situations in my life where I felt like God wasn’t at work in. But nothing happened today that ignited these feelings. I simply woke up with them.

Here’s the normal chain of events for my sinful heart. It happens every couple of months. I acknowledge and notice something off in my life, something outside of my control, and I begin to get mad and frustrated with God about it. I do the classic “if you loved me, you would do this. If you were good, this wouldn’t happen.”

“If you’re good, children wouldn’t be without a good home this Christmas. If you loved me, all of my relationships would be perfect in this season of my life. If you’re good, my family wouldn’t have lost a brother/son. If you’re loving, I wouldn’t be hurting. If you were good, my friends wouldn’t be in such pain.”

Around and around this goes, and each time this happens I show just how stupidly forgetful I am as a person.

I absolutely love the Psalms because of how transparent emotionally they are. I study different passages for the sake of teaching and preaching, but the bulk of my devotional readings are in the Psalms. They always hit me close to home.

A couple days ago I read Psalm 77. And it wrecked my whiney heart.

I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion? – vv. 1-9

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I’ve felt this before for sure. I have felt like I’m tirelessly crying out to God and not finding comfort. I’ve felt like I’ve remembered God and meditated on His promises and still felt faint and too tired to even pray. I’ve questioned in my heart whether or not God will reject me forever, whether His promises have failed, and whether He’s forgotten to be merciful and compassionate.

I’m sure if you’re honest with yourself, you’ve been here too. So as I was reading this Psalm I was feeling pretty vindicated and affirmed in my complaining. But abruptly in the middle of this Psalm, the script flips.

Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. – vv. 10-15

Asaph (the dude who wrote this little ditty) will go on to talk about the ways God specifically intervened and rescued the people of God in the book of Exodus.

I want to emphasize the way Asaph combats the feelings of hopelessness, bitterness, anger, and sorrow in his heart. He does so by appealing to the times when God rescued His people through His power and might.

Christians are pretty much the most forgetful people ever. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times God has shown His power and might in our lives, we still end up questioning His love and goodness the next time things aren’t going according to plan.

I write this blog not to condemn you, or myself (because this forgetfulness was literally me this very morning). I write it to convict and encourage you to take this Psalm to heart, and practice what I think is shown here to be a worthwhile endeavor. Reflect on and praise God for the ways He has moved in your life. This decade. This year. This month. This week. This very day.

In the last three months, God took me out of a ministry situation where I was almost constantly alone and put me in a place much closer to family, my fiancee, my friends. A place where I am able to work daily with a team and am given opportunities to grow, lead, and serve. This was a work of God in my life that I constantly doubted and wasn’t sure He would come through on. This alone is proof from this past year that He is good. The list could also easily be much much longer.

Make it personal for you. Write down and record the ways that God has rescued, redeemed, and moved in your life this past year.

It’s okay to not be okay some days. It’s okay to let out all your hurt and pain to the Lord who cares deeply for you. But don’t stay there. Praise God for the ways that He has moved.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach.

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The Weeping Christian

When was the last time you cried over sin? 381H.jpg

When was the last time you shed tears over the sins of our country, the sins of your community, and the sins of your own heart?

This happened to me for the first time in a long time yesterday. I got into an argument with my girlfriend, resulting in me saying some hateful words. After dropping her off at her home, I was overcome by my sin as I was driving and broke down in tears. I was mourning the wounds that I had opened and mourning the way my words were a grievance against God. I’m thankful for a God who extends grace, and a girlfriend who does the same.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about how little I actually mourn over my sin. I may pray confessions to the Lord throughout my day, and the consequences of my sin may have lingering effects, but when have I actually mourned my sin before God? Ever since I was a kid I have been quick at confessing my sins, in my attempts to get things back to the status quo. Yet when was the last time I allowed myself to really think through the reality of my sin, and how it’s detestable to the Lord?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:2-3

In the famous ‘Sermon On The Mount’ section of Matthew, Jesus makes these promises about those who are poor in spirit and those who mourn. These promises are based off of character qualities, not personalities or circumstances.

What I mean by that is this. It is definitely true that God promises the kingdom of heaven to those who at a particular moment are poor in spirit. It is definitely true as well that God promises to comfort those who are grieving and mourning whether that be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or any other major grief that we can face.

But in my humble opinion, these promises are for those who walk in the disciplines of confession and contrition.

The promise found in verse two is amazing. The poor in spirit will be given the kingdom of heaven. In other words those who acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy will be given the riches of heaven, the riches of grace.

To be ‘poor in spirit’ is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty, indeed our spiritual bankruptcy, before God. For we are sinners, under the holy wrath of God, and deserving nothing but the judgement of God. We have nothing to offer, nothing to plead, nothing with which to buy the favor of heaven. – John Stott

How often do we live this out though? How many of us are poor in spirit, living constantly, daily, in light of the fact that we have nothing to offer God to earn his favor? I honestly don’t know many in my faith community that exude the quality of being poor in spirit. Yet when we are in fact confessing our brokenness and nothingness to God, that is when we will receive paradoxically all that we need from the storehouses of God’s grace. It is in admitting that we have nothing, that we receive everything.

It is like the old hymn,

nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.

The second promise we see in this passage is the one that has prompted so much thought for me recently. Those who mourn will be comforted. Like I stated earlier, it is true that God comforts the grieving and mourning of those who are facing chaotic circumstances in their worlds. This verse however is about something far deeper than that.

If we are broken-hearted over our sin, the grace and favor of God will bring comfort.

It is one thing to simply acknowledge our sin, it is another thing entirely to be broken over it.

While I was quick to confess my sins as a child, I was just as quick to pretend like nothing had happened, plastering the smile back on my face and going about my day. It used to confuse and annoy me to high heaven why my family or friends who I had hurt would not be so quick to let bygones be bygones.

Our Christian culture tells us that as Christians, we’re supposed to be joyful, happy, not dwelling on things that don’t bring us joy. According to Jesus, the Christian life is not all joy and laughter. According to Jesus, the Christian life is not about being overly-bubbly or boisterous. According to Jesus, there is a place for tears.

The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them. – John Stott

When was the last time you cried over your sin?

Man oh man, this is such a lost art. In one certain ancient creedal statement of the Christian faith, it is said, ‘We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins’. Its as if we as modern Christians have lost sight of just how grievous our sins are against God.

There is a pendulum that swings in Christian culture between grace and holiness in regards to the emphasis of our literature, sermons, musics, etc. Right now the pendulum is heavily in the grace camp. This isn’t evil or explicitly wrong, but the over-emphasis on the grace of God (which is a wonderful thing) can lead to us not being remorseful for our sins because ‘there’s grace for that’.

Yes there’s grace for that. Which is wonderful. But let us practice confessing and mourning our sins before God. It is in these moments where we will be comforted by His grace.

Ironically, when we confess our sins in mourning before God, we receive grace which is the very thing that often keeps us from mourning our sins before God.

Brother or sister in Christ, be mournful over your sin.

Brother or sister in Christ, be poor in spirit.

Brother or sister in Christ, be comforted by His grace.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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