How does God create a person who is skilled in comforting others? We naturally think about DNA and dispositions. You’ve met them—those genetically sweetened souls who were born to care, predisposed to sympathize, hardwired to ask questions and ooze concern—the burden-bearers who thrive on your chaos. But you look in the mirror and you know that person, or anything close to that person, is not staring back at you.
So how does God take people who aren’t inclined to care and transform them into comforters? You see the world clearly. We are born bent inwards towards self-care, self-concern, and self-comfort. Others’ pain is an unwelcome distraction from our extended self-sessions. We look up wondering who dares to divert us from our comfort-expedition. So how does God take people fixed on self-comfort and turn them outward towards others? How does He break our narcissistic gaze into the pool’s reflection to look up at the pain all around us?
Our culture peddles many fixes. Drugs comfort, or so we’re told. So we swallow pills, or dabble in a little blow or crank—anything to escape the pain and return to our happy-place. But drugs dissipate, and with them goes our comfort. We turn elsewhere. We eat comfort-food, visit the Comfort Store to buy comfy-stuff, or plan a getaway at the Comfort Inn. Never in the history of the world has the illusion of comfort been more available to so many. But when comfort is self-diagnosed and self-treated, it proves to be pretty elusive.
Recently, Zeke got hit with some uncomfortable news. His father was diagnosed with cancer and his mom became so disturbed by the news that she won’t leave her bedroom. Ten years ago, her own mother (Zeke’s grandmother) died of cancer. Since then, the mere whisper of that disease stirs his mom’s darkest fears. The news of this sinister disease in her husband has justified her darkest fears. She seems utterly inconsolable.
Zeke knows his family needs him, and on some level, he wants to help. But between the demands of work, the weekend activities with friends, and occasional church events, Zeke’s capacity for expending energy towards others is pretty spent. Sure, he prays for his parents. But really, Zeke’s got his own life, his own problems, and his own need for help. Zeke feels like he can’t supply comfort because he needs it so much of it himself!
How does God take people who feel, sometimes desperately, the preoccupying need for comfort and make them want to provide it to others? What steps does he take to transform us from comfort-consumers to comfort-providers?
In our next three posts in this series, we will be investigating the topic of comfort.