Distress and Comfort
While the Christian rests in his relationship to God through Christ, he is not unaffected by the circumstances of everyday life, including the spiritual state of those he loves.
Today’s reading: Isaiah 56-58; 1 Thessalonians 3
15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15
6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 3:6-8
Paul was not a little anxious about the Thessalonians. Twice he uses the phrase “[we or I] could bear it no longer” (3:1,5). He wanted to know how those new believers were doing. He finally sent Timothy to them and learned that they were not only standing firm in the gospel but were impacting the whole region.
Isaiah reports how God who is high and lifted up also dwells with the one who is “of a contrite and lowly spirit.” If God is with us, assuming we qualify as having “a contrite and lowly spirit,” do we need anything more? No, not really. God is enough. The psalmist said, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25).
Yet Paul could not bear the anxiety of not knowing if the young disciples in Thessalonica were doing well, not reverting to idol worship. Did Paul lack faith? Was he too dependent on being successful in his work? No. We can see that Paul had a tender heart toward those he taught. It was natural, not sinful. He made the sacrifice of sending Timothy to inquire about them. There was nothing wrong with doing that. We would not expect a sincere minister or missionary to be cold and uncaring about those he has served in the gospel.
So we are right to be concerned about those whose spiritual lives could be in jeopardy. We are right to do what we can to care for them and to keep up with their circumstances and progress. In the final analysis, however, our greatest comfort and joy will be that “the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy” dwells with us and revives our hearts. Don’t be unfeeling toward others, but let God’s presence be the bedrock of your spirit to comfort you in distress.