The Real Meaning of Comfort
This week I had the opportunity to share a bit of my story in the online magazine Mom Colored Glasses1. It's what I've learned in a nutshell through overcoming chronic illness over the last 5 years or so. The Magazine has lots of great and interesting topics that I'm sure many of my readers will enjoy and I highly recommend it to all of you.
What is the Real Meaning of Comfort?
From the outside looking in, most people would call my life comfortable. I smile a lot and I love to sing. My husband is a physician, we have a beautiful home, four happy and healthy kids, and a fifteen year marriage. But when you look beyond the surface, there are plenty of reasons to find discontentment. I could complain about my full-time work schedule, housework that piles up, all the typical "mom duties", or my thyroid and bladder auto-immune disease.
Last night, our grandparents' early lives came up during conversation with our kids. They lived through the Great Depression, the tuberculosis epidemic, and World War II... all before the age of 30. Yet, each of them went on to live extraordinary lives of love and compassion for others. My husband summed their lives up well - "You can never really know what someone has been through just by the way they look. Suffering is a part of life, and you can either use it to make you a better person, make you more determined to fulfill your calling in life...or it can defeat you."
But large-scale things like war and epidemics on the outside are not the only challenges moms like you and I face. Sometimes, internal wars are more threatening. Many of us do a great job wearing the "everything's fine" mask, when inside, we're feeling crushed by very personal circumstances. As I have worked through the challenges of long-term illness, I've had well meaning friends, family, and co-workers say things like, "I never noticed you were sick" or "It doesn't seem to me like you struggle all that much". But in reality, almost every day I have pain. At it's worst, it is compared to undiagnosed and untreated cancer pain, and at it's best, it's an annoying throb that constantly wears at me. I'm in constant danger of infection, fever, heart issues, and other problems, yet I try to allow these trials to motivate me to become something greater.
In our early thirties, my husband and I made a radical life change in order to create a legacy for our children and our patients, a legacy of hope and comfort in the middle of very dark times. Our marriage was on thin ice from all of the stress, we had four small children, my husband had a very demanding schedule as an obstetrician and my health was falling apart. We felt hopeless, pulled to the limit and completely out of control. After much prayer and many painful decisions, my husband walked away from a successful ob/gyn practice to find answers to my illnesses. It took years of searching and training to find those answers, but I finally started feeling better. Now, we share that knowledge at our integrative wellness centers and on our website. Through the struggle, our marriage grew stronger, our faith increased and our children had a ringside seat to God's comfort through real hardship.
God never promised us that life we would be comfortable. In fact, in John 16:33 Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world!" God seems to be saying, "I have not promised that you will be comfortable, but I have always promised you comfort." There's a big difference between being comforted and being comfortable. Comfortable makes us feel nothing but pleasure (often just a temporary pleasure!), and allows for little to no growth. It's self-focused and requires little from you. Comfort, however, is knowing there is someone walking beside you to help you bear up under the challenge and strain. Being comforted by a loving Father means that while He is not taking the suffering or pain away, God is helping you grow into the person you're supposed to be. Then, it allows us to pass on the comfort (the gift) we received from God to others who are in desperate need of it. In my darkest hours of pain, I knew that I wanted to pass hope on to others so that no one would ever feel as discouraged and hopeless and I did right then.
So, fellow mom, don't wish to be comfortable all the time, but instead, be comforted by a loving God through those hard times. Whether it's an illness, a difficult situation with your child, marital discord, death, divorce, or any other thing that could derail you, just STOP! Allow God to comfort you through the trials of your life with an eye to the ways you can use your hardships to bring comfort to someone else some day down the road. When it's your turn to comfort someone, have the courage to peel off the mask of "everything's fine" to let others know that you struggle too.
I'll leave you with the Bible's perspective on suffering from the Message Bible. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says, "So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever."
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