God isn’t interested in…

I am realizing how much our “tribe” {us “Christian people”} throw little quotes and sayings around about God, giving them all the veracity of actual scripture, when in fact, they merely began as someone’s interpretation and probably had a catchy rhythm for some sermon or another.  And sometimes, they may have been re-stated as a scriptural explanation flat-out wrong.

There is one that has been bugging me.  A lot.  And I am not saying it wasn’t a point in purity and truth at some point.  I am just saying I have heard it in various ways over many years, usually it’s used to shrug-off and dismiss a fellow believer who is going through a very hard time:

“Well, God isn’t interested in your comfort, He is interested in your character.”

Or – “God isn’t concerned with your comfort, He wants to build your character.”

Isn’t that alliteration just peachy-preachy?  So catchy.  So, Obviously-those-people-weren’t-maturing-fast-enough-like-myself-so-God-wants-them-to-suffer-so-no-one-should-show-compassion-because-God-wants-it-this-way-and-couldn’t-care-less-about-their-pain-until-they-get-as-right-as-me.

Grrrr.  But seriously – I have seen it, had it thrown at me, and sadly, probably thought it or said it, too, about others in crisis.  Maybe it made me feel a little more spiritually superior when I couldn’t explain why something bad was happening to a perfectly normal human.

It has also been said these ways:

“God doesn’t care about your character, he cares about your heart.”

Which also doesn’t really work, either, does it?  Oh yes, He looks at the heart, but the condition of your heart is at the center of your character and maturity.  Pure heart = pure character, I’d say.

“God isn’t interested in our comfort, He is interested in our healing.”

Which – well, isn’t being healed the ultimate in comfort?  Doesn’t that actually prove He IS, in fact, interested in our comfort?

I am not talking about comfort in the sense that I get everything I want at the exact moment I want it.  It isn’t about plumping my pillow to exactly the way I like so I can feel comfortable.  It is about needing comfort for gut-wrenching pain sometimes, for things that have gone very wrong relationally or circumstantially despite our best efforts.

We can’t dismiss the fact that we are living in a fallen world and horrible things happen to amazingly good, redeemed people.  It rains on the just and the unjust.  Your heart can be broken to bits whether you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior or not.  And while I wholly believe and am filled with hope at the thought that God doesn’t waste our pain, I think we are often too mean-spirited and so unlike the Father when we the hard things people face without the compassion we have been shown.  We are judgemental and sanctimonious when we can stand back, arms folded, and decree: Well, obviously, God doesn’t care whether you’re hurting or not.  He wants to see you have some character, doggone it, so get over it and be miserable.

Good news:

Even the Apostle Paul went through perilous, awful, times of despair and trouble – while he was doing God’s will!   So at least we are in good company.  2 Corinthians chapter one begins with him recounting the turbulence in his path:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us (verses 8-10)

It gets better:

But guess what else?  Verses 3-7 introduce us to a God we rarely hear preached about except at funerals.  But He is not just comforting people who lose some one through death – he is the God of all comfort for the things we face in life!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.   If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.   And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Did you see that?  Being comforted, receiving comfort actually produces patient endurance in suffering.  We become able to bear so much more when we are comforted.  It doesn’t make us sissies, it makes us stronger, warriors to end.

God won’t waste your pain.  That quote I can get into, because the Word says here that we get to share the comfort we received from God with others.  But to say God isn’t interested in our comfort?  Just that I be recklessly used and abused and hurt and troubled and if I jump every hoop correctly maybe I will finally prove I am good enough?  Pppphst! 

Oh, He is who the Word says He is.  He is the Father (the beginning) of compassion.  He is the God of all comfort.    And I have news for you: He comforts us in ALL our troubles so we have something to give to others who are troubled.  He comforts us as we suffer like Christ so we can also share in the abounding comfort of Christ.  If we are suffering, troubled, distressed, we are comforted from God our Father and it flows through us and over us and around us as we comfort those nearby.

showing comfort

The picture I got of this was my childhood roller-skating experiences.  I spent two years of my life (3 – 5) on metal roller skates and I fell a lot and have the scars on these knees to prove it.  I can remember running in, bloodied knees, again and again and my mom did not once say, “Well, that is what you get and you’re going to keep getting until you determine to skate better.”  My mom would always pull out the mercuricome antiseptic and band aids and a sudsy washcloth and soothe me with understanding.  She comforted me when I fell.  I think we are all smart enough to understand what comfort is.  It is care.  It is concern.  It is served with compassion.  It doesn’t necessarily fix anything, but oh it soothes the brokenness and helps us endure to the end…

So, there.

God IS interested in your comfort because He wants you to have what it takes to endure to the end – no matter what life and circumstances bring.

“And yet what more could He have said about it than He has said: ‘As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted.’ Notice the as and so in this passage: ‘As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.’ It is real comforting that is meant here; the sort of comforting that a child feels when it is ‘dandled on its mother’s knees, and borne on her sides’…” ~Hannah Whitehall Smith (1832-1911), The God of All Comfort

“The LORD comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.” Isaiah 49.13 NIV

“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  Matthew 5.4

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