Comforting The Afflicted, Afflicting The Comfortable

Comforting The Afflicted, Afflicting The Comfortable August 20, 2018

The Word of God is sharp and it cuts, but it cuts in order to heal. It comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.

Good to be Afflicted

When we think about afflictions, we generally think of them as something we want to avoid, but afflictions can do more good than harm. The Psalmist knew enough about life and the Word of God that he could say from experience, that “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (Psalm 119:67), so “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:72). Afflictions can draw us closer to God, and they bring us back into obedience to the Word of God, so in that sense, afflictions are good. They become course corrections in life that steer us out of dangerous harbors. So how could the psalmist, who was under affliction, say, “I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me” (Psalm 119:75)? It is because of His great love for us. As we will read, discipline is linked to love. Where there is no discipline, there is no love. Hate is not the opposite of love; it is apathy. Solomon wrote that “the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov 3:12), so the truth is, “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb 12:5). If we’re without discipline, can we claim to be His child since He only disciplines the ones “whom he loves?” What parent, foster-parent, or caregiver wouldn’t discipline a child who continually goes out to play in the street?

Good to be Comforted

The Word of God also comforts those who are afflicted. It is a spiritual balm for the soul that gives the believer hope, reassurance, and joy because of the manifold promises of God; and not one good promise will fail. He promises eternal life to all who believe (John 3:16), and promises that whoever believes in Christ, even death cannot separate them from God (John 11:25-26; Rom 8:38-39). The psalmist again wrote that “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life” (Psalm 119:50), so even in their afflictions, the believer can have hope in life; this life and the next to come. This is why he prayed, “Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant” (Psalm 119:76). Countless times, God has used others as a means to comfort others. The Apostle Paul wrote that God “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” (2 Cor 1:4). Whatever means God used to comfort you in your last affliction, you can do the same for others in whatever ways you can. The early church claimed this comfort from God and God caused the church to grow. It says the early church was “walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied” (Acts 9:31). God used the Thessalonians to comfort Paul as he wrote that “in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith” (1 Thess 3:7).

Afflicting the Comfortable

If ever there were a comfortable group in a society, it was the Jewish religious leaders, and for the most part, only the rich or elite had any chance at becoming a ruler or leader. Those in power were going to remain in power because of their wealth and influence, and if it meant using the threat of throwing people out of the synagogues to keep them in line, they’d do it (and did!). That’s why many were hesitant to publically profess Christ. They knew that if they did, they’d be kicked out of the synagogue, and a Jew who couldn’t go to synagogue, was in one of the most humiliating positions one could be in, in their society. Jesus knew this, so on more than one occasion, He offended the religious leaders by openly exposing their hypocrisy, and often to the delight of the crowds. This made the leaders even more determined to have Jesus silenced…permanently. Jesus, in speaking to the Pharisees and scribes, said “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt 15:7-9). Later, “the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying” (Matt 15:12)? I don’t think Jesus cared about that. They were too comfortable in their own skin. Jesus refers to the Jewish leaders in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, saying that there were “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). The Jewish leaders didn’t need comfort from the Word of God; they needed the Word of God to afflict and to humble them, because they were trusting in their own righteousness and not realizing that even our best works are filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6). You can read just how useless works will be on the Day of Judgment (Rev 20:12-15), but the Word of God does what He send sit out to do (Isaiah 55:11), and so sometimes, His Word will comfort the afflicted, but it will afflict the comfortable.

Conclusion

Who wouldn’t be glad for pain that warns them about a life-threatening issue and then head to the ER, and discovered it saved their life? The Word of God comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. We know that, but we also know that God can use afflictions to draw us closer to Him; to expose and work on a serious besetting sin we have; to humble us when we start to believe our own stuff too much and not give glory to God; but afflictions will also help us learn God’s statues or laws. It may even drive us into the Word of God and knock us to our knees. That way we’re already in a position to pray and seek comfort from God and His Word. Ask Him what He wants us to learn, unless it’s something obviously sinful (1 Cor 6:12-20). Remember, God disciplines every child of His because of His great love for us. Afflictions are not God “getting even,” but getting closer. He is nearer to those who are of a broken heart and crushed spirit (Psalm 34:18). That’s closer…not further, as we often assume God is more distant. Wrong. He seeks a closer relationship with His children, and if afflictions do that, we should be good with that.

Do you know someone who’s afflicted right now? Be used by God to comfort them, and in ways that God comforted you. Philemon comforted Paul in his distress, and Paul wrote, “For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you” (Phil 1:7). Now, let us go and do the same.

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

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  • pud

    More and endless babyish wish thinking nonsense.

    1. It is NOT the “word of a god” it is the words of men. Stupid, barbaric, ignorant, delusional, possessed men as are ALL “holy books”

    2. “Afflictions can draw us closer to God, and they bring us back into obedience to the Word of God” (see #1) Explain how childhood Leukemia draws people closer to your indifferent to suffering “god” and in particular, obedience to this monster who will crush you for the egregious crime of not believing nonsense..

    3. “If we’re without discipline, can we claim to be His child since He only disciplines the ones “whom he loves?” What parent, foster-parent, or caregiver wouldn’t discipline a child who continually goes out to play in the street?” What loving parent sends tsunamis and earthquakes or idly stands by so as to “teach a lesson”? Loving parents don’t remain invisible and undetectable and teach with loving care not retribution, domination and your favorite word “wrath” Wrathful parents get thrown in jail

    4. “You can read just how useless works will be on the Day of Judgment (Rev 20:12-15),” THE BOOK! In fact the MOST psychotic of all the books in your big BOOK of gibberish. To the lake of fire with you says the “loving” celestial dictator! Tell me jack you mindless fool…when you read the ingredient label on a product you’re about to consume…do you care if that label is true? Aside from your obvious insanity why would you care about truth in advertising when you wholeheartedly consume this Bronze Age absurd hearsay superstition without a single effort to determine if a word of it is actually true?

    5. “Who wouldn’t be glad for pain that warns them about a life-threatening issue and then head to the ER, and discovered it saved their life?” The ER? what for?! Pray jack! You have gawd! Why would you need a doctor or a hospital? Why would you care to prolong your wretched life of lying to children when you could joyfully croak and be magically beamed to paradise?

    6. “Remember, God disciplines every child of His because of His great love for us.” Like Noah’s flood where the unborn sinners were killed in the wombs of their mothers? That great love?

    You are sick jack….seriously, genuinely, deeply sick

    • Maine_Skeptic

      “…You are sick jack….seriously, genuinely, deeply sick.”

      I think you’re over-reacting to this article. Evangelicals tend to disrespect everyone who disagrees with them any way. When you come at them, rhetorical guns blazing, over what is for them a fairly innocuous article, all you’re doing is giving them an excuse to claim they’re being persecuted.

      • pud

        But I am persecuting them! I want them all relegated to the dust bin of history with all the other myths and lies.

        • Maine_Skeptic

          “But I am persecuting them!”

          I really hope not. Are you threatening them physically? Harassing or intimidating them personally? Are you trying to prevent them from having the same rights as everyone else?

          “I want them all relegated to the dust bin of history with all the other myths and lies.”

          I don’t. Not the people. I’m no fan of Christianity, but the problems we have today are the result of human failings, not Evangelical ones. Erase religion from the world, and we’ll just find other reasons to hate and fear each other.

          Do we discuss Christianity with believers? Defend our rights against their attacks? Point out where they’re wrong? Sure! But we have to remember that the human tendency toward hatred and fear is the real enemy, and we can’t overcome it by lumping all Christians together and labeling them “evil.”

          • Jack Wellman

            Good points. I do not judge atheists or agnoistics by Pud’s tactics because that would be unfair to unbelievers. Most that I know are respectful human beings and I respect their belief (or dis-belief) so Pud is not like most atheists or agnostics. It would be most unfair to make sweeping generalizations or label all unbelievers based upon one person who remains anonymous and is not the average at all (far from it).

          • Maine_Skeptic

            I respect that you allow dissenting comments. It sets you apart and speaks well of you, at least to me. People who are controlled by fear and anger can’t permit or listen to dissent. (That goes for atheists and skeptics, too.)

          • pud

            He makes his living lying to children. His cult is rooted in shame, guilt, and self loathing…there is nothing admirable about him or the cult he represents

          • pud

            Ridiculous ideas deserve ridicule. That’s how we move from your barbaric vision to a world governed by reason instead of guilt and shame led superstition

          • pud

            There are no good nazis are there? It’s the ideology that’s the enemy and anyone who supports it is by association the enemy. There would be no ISIS if there weren’t millions and millions of muslims propagating their horrific cult would there be? If the Koran and buybull didn’t exist then neither would the absurd cults that lead to the extremists

          • Maine_Skeptic

            “There are no good nazis are there?”

            The Nazi Party overtly embraced white supremacy and ethnic cleansing (by different names) as part of its core mission. Those are values which necessarily put them in existential conflict with millions of innocent people by virtue of who those other people are. A less formal but similarly toxic ideology was the set of values Umberto Eco defined as “Ur-Fascism,” a misogynistic, anti-intellectual, glorification of idealized masculinity and conquest. No necessary aspect of Christianity falls into that category of unlivable values. It’s simply not a fair comparison to make, and it’s ridiculous to do so.

            “It’s the ideology that’s the enemy…”

            I agree that we should argue with ideologies that we think are toxic, but we need to know the difference between an ideology and a person. For instance, there are a billion Muslims in the world. I have no love for Islam, but few Muslims are blood-thirsty terrorists. Most Muslims just want to live their lives in peace. The religion they espouse makes room for horrific violence, but somehow most Muslims manage to live their lives without it.

            “…and anyone who supports it is by association the enemy.”

            That does not follow, and it’s dangerously close to a toxic value, in and of itself. I know nothing about you, but my guess is that like me, you belong to several classifications of people who are at times considered “the enemy.” My guess is that you’re American.

            Well, there are people in the world who believe all Americans are evil. Our president certainly is, and the fact that he was elected president taints all of us in the eyes of the countries he wants to victimize. If I say to those people that I’m a patriot, that I love my country and what it stands for, and that I’m proud to be an American, they’d hate me as much as they hate the president. It’s possible for me to be an America-loving patriot and oppose everything the president stands for (and I whole-heartedly do.) I’m not the enemy of all the president’s enemies.

          • pud

            Being an american…a designation imposed on me….implies no world view or ideology. Islam on the other hand does. While “most” muslims don’t strap bombs to themselves more than half support those who do!

            Same for the lunatic christian cult which you are poorly trying to defend. Examine their history. Consider what they try to teach children in public schools. Consider the “ark park” in Kentucky where people like jack take kids by the busload.

            Muslims vote, christians vote and they all vote their ideology and world view and manifest their will through the ballot box for like minded lunatics.

            There are no good nazis….I’ll repeat it for you. They all didn’t work in the death camps but they voted for Hitler and worked in the munition factories and stood idly by as millions were executed saying and doing nothing. The catholic church by the way supported the nazis and fully 50% of the Waffen SS were practicing catholics.

            Our country doesn’t stand for anything. Saying you’re an american means nothing and implies nothing. Falling out of your mothers womb onto soil claimed by the white people who conquered this land doesn’t make you anything.

            REASON and RATIONALITY are the ONLY virtues we as people should strive for. Nazis, muslims, christians, trump supporters are the antithesis of both. If they are not your enemies they you by default support them through your naive’ indifference and tolerance

          • Maine_Skeptic

            “REASON and RATIONALITY are the ONLY virtues we as people should strive
            for. Nazis, muslims, christians, trump supporters are the antithesis of
            both.”

            Reason and rationality are critical for pursuing fact-based truth, but a person can reason well and be rational and still be an a**hole. We can’t flourish as people without compassion for each other and willingness to cooperate for the common good. When we feel such a strong need to categorize whole groups of people as “the enemy,” we’re giving into the same irrational fear and anger that controls so many Evangelicals today. It’s a kind of collective madness, and atheists are just as capable of it as any other group of people.

            The only advantage Skeptics sometimes have over people of faith is a greater awareness that all people have irrational fears and biases, so that we can try to compensate for them. The way you talk about Christians sounds like you think they innately have fears and biases that the rest of us aren’t also vulnerable to.

          • pud

            Look…I’m only going to engage you so long…think! You CANNOT “reason” with “irrational” people! You cannot reason with a muslim, a christian, a mormon or any ideological zealot. It is impossible because they do not and did not arrive at their worldview via reason!

            They have to be viewed as enemies not pitiful deluded nice people. There were plenty of Nazis that would have baked you a cake and sang you happy birthday but their ideology was irrational and thus you could not reason them out of what they weren’t reasoned into

            This is what makes religion so dangerous. They don’t care about climate change because “gawd is sovereign” ASK THEM! They would persecute gays, stomp on womans rights, indoctrinate children into believing in the ark! Is that the world you want? You want prayer back in school? A theocratic government? They would love it and would seize upon an opportunity…is that what you want?

            They are NOT benign! They are stupid and irrational….a cult that cannot be reasoned with. You ignore the danger they represent and you’ll be getting medical treatment by prayer groups and leeches again.

  • Jack Wellman

    praying for you Pud that you believe, even though you have no excuse (Rom 1:18-20). My heart breaks for you knowing that if you don’t repent, you will perish. Thanks for the blessing anyway (Matt 5:10-12; 1 Pet 4).

    • pud

      This sums up your sickness. Anyone who would worship a psychotic god like yours…real or imagined….ancient or new….who would design a universe the way you see it through your guilt and shame filled eyes has to be sick. You would be right at home in North Korea…they have the exact same set up.

      I do not care what the words in your stupid ancient BOOK say…I care about what is actually demonstrably true! You on the other hand don’t care but instead swallow wholesale the hearsay of no name authors, magic, fantasy, contradictions up the yazoo, provable falsehoods, immoral precepts and outright mythology as if it actually were true. You are demonstrably delusional and wicked for spreading this foul ideology to the masses and in particular innocent children,

      You are a cult leader and a cowardly one at that for not debating me on these pages so the few lunatics who follow you and subscribe to your ridiculous nonsense can see how hollow all of it truly is.

      • Maine_Skeptic

        “…You are a cult leader and a cowardly one at that for not debating me on these pages…”

        Please take a break and think over what you’re saying. I realize you’re angry, but you have good reason to know that your anger at what some Evangelicals are doing has gotten the better of you.

        If Jack Wellman is a cult leader, then there are a lot worse things to criticize about him than this article. Cult leaders destroy lives to suit their own egos, and they create chaos and destruction in the lives of their own supporters. Those things would deserve exposure if they were happening. And if they’re happening, then this article is not what we should be talking about.

        As for your accusation of cowardice, don’t forget that he is in a tiny minority of Evangelicals on Patheos who allow comments on their articles at all. Even fewer of them permit dissenting comments.

        Believe me: I get your anger, or at least I think I do. A lot of Americans have been slandered and lied to by Evangelicals, but that doesn’t mean all Evangelicals are liars and slanderers. A lot of Americans have been slandered and lied to by white men, too, but not all white men are evil.

        • pud

          I’m not angry….I have contempt…not the same as anger.

          He does destroy lives! He indoctrinates children through the tried and true methodology of religion….fill them with shame, guilt and self loathing…tell them they are “filthy rags” Terrorize them into believing the nonsense of eternal torture unless they believe a ridiculous book…and then he offers them the cure for the low low price of their critical thinking skills. How could you possibly not see this?

          He is a professional liar….he makes his living lying to people about things he cannot possibly know…worse, he does it to children before they have even reached the age of reason.

    • pud

      “Those who believe this nonsense nowadays are without excuse”

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrDTaHjg2IQ

  • pud

    Worst floods in a century kill at least 350 in S. India….One woman thanks the “almighty” for saving her….Well jack? It wasn’t your “almighty” so is she wrong? And what about the “almighty’s” indifference towards at least 350 “believers”? Jack? Couldn’t “your” almighty stop the rains and end the suffering?

  • pud

    Let’s have a debate jack…invite your entire parish to bear witness. Defend your “faith” and see how strong your arguments are. What are you so afraid of jack?

  • pud

    THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of children molested by PRIESTS!…..Did your “god” have a greater purpose in mind jack? Is he comforting them now? Seems once again he was either too busy or too impotent to intervene eh? But he did cure Aunt Esthers hang nail so that’s good.

    SICK CULTS!

  • The assumption that you seem to base your theology upon is the assumption that the bible is the Word of God, although you also say that Jesus is the Word of God. Which is it, if any of these? Why not say that compassion is the “Word of God”, if God exists?

    This holy book of yours has Yahweh tell the Israelis to slaughter the Amalekites, including the butchering of defenseless women, little children and babies. He is supposed to have said this through the false prophet, Samuel. Saul was told to murder the Amalekites for what they had done to the Israelis about 400 years earlier. None of the, then living, Israelis was responsible for what had been done previously, so why command the slaughter of them all? And what responsibility did little children and babies have with what previously happened? Why butcher them?

    Saul was supposedly condemned for not doing a thorough enough job. He butchered all the children and babies but did not kill king Agag. Samuel cut Agag to pieces. What a nasty piece he was! This book was written by barbaric and bloodthirsty savages. How can it be the Word of and god? One thing for sure! It would have afflicted the comfortable, but it would not have comforted the afflicted.