Sometimes we're quicker to judge than to comfort.
This hit me recently on the streets of Philadelphia, where I live. I walked by a young homeless person begging on the street and immediately thought to myself, "I wonder what they did to get themselves here."
Wow. That's about as far from a gracious response as you can get!
It's an embarrassing story for me to tell, but I'm willing to confess it because I'm convinced of this: criticism often comes more quickly to us than compassion.
See if any of these examples resonate with you recently:
- We yell at our children for doing the same things we did as kids - "When I was your age, I would have never thought about doing that!"
- We look down on the parents in the restaurant who can't keep their kids in line - "I can't believe they're letting them misbehave like that in public!"
- We think there's little excuse for being poor and have no sympathy for those who struggle to pay their bills - "Look at all the unwise decisions they make with their money!"
- We scorn those who are not as smart or successful as we are - "They're so lazy; if they only worked harder they could do something with their life!"
Maybe you didn't say those exact words, but if you search long enough, you'll find examples of that self-righteousness functioning in your heart. When we look at ourselves and see strong, wise, capable, mature, and righteous people, we tend to look down on those who have not achieved what we think we have achieved.
So here's what God, in love, will do: he will put us in situations where our weakness, foolishness, and immaturity are exposed so that we might become more sensitive and patient with others who struggle.
I remember when my father died. I had long prided myself on how well I understood and could communicate the important doctrine of God's sovereignty. But when my dad passed, God's plan didn't make sense. It looked chaotic and completely out of his control. Since then, I've grown to be comforting of people in tough situations who can't make sense of God's plan for their life.
The Apostle Paul captures this in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (ESV)
So the next time you experience a hard moment, tell yourself this: "these moments are not just for my own growth in grace, but for my calling to be a tool of that same grace in the life of a fellow sufferer."
By sending difficulty your way, God is softening your heart and sharpening your edges so that you may be ready to make the comfort of the invisible Father visible in the life of the weary pilgrim he has placed in your pathway.
God intends for you to give away the comfort you've been given. The grace that has given you hope is meant to spill over into hope for the person next to you. What a plan!
Paul David Tripp
- Can you identify with any of those 5 judgmental statements? If not those specifically, find a similar response from your life.
- What is self-righteous about your response?
- How would grace have responded? (Remember: grace never calls wrong "right"; it calls wrong "wrong" but does so in grace)
- In what ways have you suffered or experienced loss recently? How did the "God of all comfort" comfort you?
- How can you share that same comfort with someone suffering in a similar fashion? Be specific and make a plan to be an agent of comfort this week!