I recently embarked on a trip to Portugal which was a tremendous experience and it was able to go ahead because of the generosity of some close friends of the family. Whilst I was there I was able to see much of the Algarve: beaches, shops, the opportunity to swim with dolphins, vineyards, oranges and lemon trees, the Monchique mountains to mention a few. However, I have had time to reflect on some thoughts I had whilst out there and decided to convey them in what I call the 4 C’s which are Comfort, Challenges, the Cross and Christ. Here it goes!
Whilst in Portugal I ventured into some churches out of curiosity which was something I was keen to do. I was still amazed at how seeing the image of Christ on the cross could provide so much comfort for me. This visual representation of what Jesus did for me and you will always strike a chord within me and stir up my love for God even more. Seeing the Son of God nailed to a cross humbles me and comforts me. He did this for me. Those that do not believe in God struggle to comprehend why a supposedly powerful and almighty God had to die. Why couldn’t he save himself? Does this not show that He is weak? How can He be trusted? There are many questions that arise in our minds about Jesus. But if we stop debating and arguing the case for and against Christ, we might actually realise that this man symbolises love. And I know love to be something each and every one of us wants to receive and God loves us abundantly. When we seek Him, He will receive us because: ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.’ (Matthew 7:7) The trouble is, when challenges come, we want to close the door to the one comfort that will go above and beyond for us – God.
As a Christian I come across challenges not just in a physical sense to what is around me, but also a spiritual sense when my faith is challenged. We all experience challenge after challenge. Whether its through bullying, financial burdens, struggling with our faith, family difficulties, relationship break downs, the death or illness of a loved one to name a few. I found I was put on the spot with an area I did not know much about which was Alzheimers and Dementia. A friend said that they could not believe in a God that would allow suffering for 10 years on their family member with this illness. They thought that even Jesus did not know the pain; crucifixion did not last for 10 years! I found this very difficult to hear because I wanted to share about the comfort of Christ, but with a question like this, even I found it difficult and often find myself asking the ‘why’ to God. Why do you permit this kind of suffering? It affects the mind, how can you allow it? As a Christian I hear all the debates about why God should not exist. I admit to not knowing all the answers, but through these challenges I am certain that God is giving us ALL the opportunity to come to Him in times of difficulty. It is when we close the door in His face that we start to have more problems.
When a challenge of any kind presents itself we all seek comfort. Day after day we seek for comfort in all sorts of ways. Through those around us, through hobbies and interests, through habits like smoking, drinking, sucking our thumbs, getting into our pj’s with ben and jerry’s ice-cream etc. But after this fades we long for that comfort again. How can we find this comfort through these challenges?
Walking into the churches in Lagos, I stood at the back and saw 2 people sitting apart from each other on pews in silent thought and prayer facing the Cross at the front of the church. Seeing this simple act reminded me of all the times I would be so busy with life that I would not take that time out to hear the voice of God. I found this verse: ‘God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.’ (Job 37:5) We should accept that God will speak to us and the idea of thunder suggests that (believe you me) we will hear it somehow! He can do this in many ways such as through the bible, through others, through creation and so many more! The second part of this verse is ‘he does great things beyond our understanding’. I think the idea of great things could be demonstrated in all sorts of ways but the key point is ‘beyond our understanding’. We cannot grasp all of the challenges by our own knowledge and it is precisely our faith in Christ that provides us with the trust needed to have comfort through these challenges. It is who He is and what he stands for as He was left to die on that Cross.
Who? I think you know. People have said his name through many ways. Positively when telling the story of the nativity at Christmas or going in church for Sunday services. Negatively, when people curse and swear which is vulgar to say the least or take the name of Jesus and mock it. But the name of Jesus Christ penetrates through all the earth. I mentioned earlier that Jesus loves us abundantly and it says in John 13:35 that ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ By following Christ we are called to love one another, no matter who they are, what is going on in their lives, if they hurt us etc. He demonstrated his love for us by dying on a cross. He took all of the hatred and the hurt upon himself so he knows all about suffering. We hurt the living God through our own selfish actions. But He loves us that much that He took it upon himself to take away the hurt. In this life we will have trouble of many kinds but God has overcome the world. We have a hope in Christ for an everlasting relationship with Him which starts in this life and carries on in heaven.
So what now?
If Christ’s greatest crime was to love us all and yet we neglect this truth of who he is and what he did on the cross, then I have deep despair for those in this life that just look on the here and now. Those who think this is all there is. Those who commit crimes and are never brought to justice in this world. Those who suffer in this life but do not want to know the comfort of the cross and of Christ in their challenges; who fail to look beyond what they see with their eyes. We all have that God shaped hole, searching for something greater. I say now is the time to consider the 4 C’s mentioned above and really get to know the purpose of life and have a relationship with the One Comfort above all other comforts.
Take care everyone and sending love your way!