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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Wounded By The Church

Since I’ve become a pastor on staff at a great church, I’ve found myself in the midst of many conversations about the church and about faith. Heartbreakingly I’ve heard many stories from those who have been hurt by and hindered by their local body of believers. The wounds brought about by the people of God can cut deep and leave long-lasting wounds on the hearts and psyches of many.

We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? There are church splits, church politics, church cliques, and  ungodly church leadership. All of us to some extent have been hurt by the church, hurt by the people of God.

One thing that baffles me at times is that God allows such horrible behavior in the lives of his servants and followers. If God is all-powerful, and loves the church so deeply (Ephesians 5), then why do such acts of ungodliness perpetrated by the people of God exist?

Why do I hear of men and women who are jaded towards the church, refusing to step into our buildings because they “love Jesus, but don’t love the church”?

Why do I see people turned off to religion because of the sins of prominent church leaders who allow greed, sexual desire, pride, hatred, or the lack of gentleness to take root and bloom in their lives, destroying their ministries?

Why does God allow ungodly men and women to be in positions of leadership in His church?

These are questions I have asked time and again, especially that last one.

My honest answer is that I don’t know.

I don’t know why this stuff happens.

That being said, through my reading of a couple chapters of Genesis last night, I discovered some light that I want to shed on the darkness of these travesties.

Now, if you haven’t read Genesis I would encourage you to. If you haven’t read it in a long while, dive back into it. It truly is a book of beginnings, of answers to our deep questions, a foundation upon which the rest of the Bible sits. Regardless of what you believe about creation, etc. there is still much for you to glean from this book.

One scholar I was reading said it like this,

The first part of the Bible (Genesis) has rare blessings for every person who will study it in seeking to understand the gracious ways of God’s dealing with mankind. 

That in my opinion is a wonderful quote. Many think that the gospel, or grace, shows up simply in the New Testament. That there may be allusions to it in the Old, but it doesn’t really burst onto the scene until the time of the nativity. That’s false. God’s grace to wicked men and women is woven throughout all of Scripture, even this very first book of the Bible.

That being said, here’s what I believe to be Biblical truth.

God can right the wrongs of His people. 

I get this belief out of the story in Genesis 20.

In this chapter, Abraham is moving with his wife Sarah throughout the land. They come into a place called Gerar, which was a region that was overseen by the king Abimelech. Abraham, out of a desire to keep himself safe (v. 11) lies to Abimelech and says that Sarah is in fact his sister, not his wife. One, weird. Two, how very sinful.

Abraham was a man who had seen God, who had heard from God, who had watched God do the miraculous in his life. Yet here he is, lying, walking in sin, to save his own skin. How disdainful. How honestly wretched.

You may be telling me to hold up, that lying is not all that bad.

Well, look at the consequences of Abraham’s actions.

In Genesis 20:18 it says that the wombs of of the household of Abimelech were all closed due to the fact that Sarah was in their midst as a single woman and potential suitor. Abimelech brings Sarah into his court, thinking that Sarah is Abraham’s sister. This leads God to close off the wombs of his family.

Deep consequences inflicted Abimelech’s family due to Abraham’s sin.

Now trust me, I know. These are much different circumstances than what most of us would think about when it comes to sins perpetrated against non-believers by the people of God.

I don’t think there is a family in Vernon, TX that is unable to have children because of the sins of our church members. At least not that I know of. I’m not intending to make light of infertility struggles, I’m merely saying this story in Genesis 20 is quite unique.

Here’s the kicker for me though.

Here’s why I (not an Old Testament scholar) believe the above truth.

God can right the wrongs of His people. 

Because God appears to Abimelech.

In verses 3 through 7, God appears to Abimelech and basically tells him that he’s a dead man for taking a married woman into his household. Abimelech cries out and says that he didn’t know, that his nation didn’t deserve to be punished due to the lie of God’s servant Abraham.

Verse six is cool.

Then God said to him in the dream, ‘Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. – Genesis 20:6

If Abimelech touches Sarah, the just wrath of God comes upon his family because of the sins of Abraham.

But God intervenes.

He prevents Abimelech from sinning.

Now, there are intricacies to this story and plenty of other questions. But in my humble opinion, the truth still stands. God is able to right the wrongs of His people.

If you have been hurt by the church, hurt by followers of Jesus, I sincerely apologize.

I pray that God will do for you what He did for Abimelech.

I pray that God will right the wrongs that have been done towards you by those who bear His name.

I pray that you would find healing.

I pray that you would find the trust to join a church community.

I’m grateful to serve a God who is bigger than my foolish mistakes.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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