Monday, October 7, 2013

Comprehending Understanding

"that we may be able to comfort"
2 Corinthians 1:4

I had lunch with a friend of mine a few weeks ago.  We used to be in Bible study together, but she moved awhile ago.  Not too far for lunch together, but far enough that it's too far for her to go to get to the church where our study meets.  So she's going to one nearer her new house. 

We had a lovely lunch at In-N-Out ~ cheeseburger with a whole grilled onion and extra spread, please.  And an order of fries.  Thank you.

And we had a lovely chat.  We studied together for many years, and got to know each other well, so we spent the time getting up to date on each others joys and woes.  But she also said something interesting, that I've been thinking about ever since. 

My friend has had her share of struggles.  She's was married for years and is now divorced, from a man who was an addict.  She has two grown kids who, when their parents' marriage ended, took it out on her, and she had friends she lost because of the breakup of her marriage.  Her house was broken into a couple years ago.  She had to move because she had to change jobs, and she's missing our Bible study class, that she loved attending.

But here's the thing:  she was talking about someone in a prayer group that she's in.  I guess they each call someone on a regular basis to chat with them and pray for them, and she was struggling with the woman who has been calling her.  She's very nice, and seems to want to try, but my friend seems to feel there's something missing from the conversation.  There's a lack of understanding somehow.  

The reason?  According to my friend, it's that her prayer partner "has never struggled".  Isn't that interesting?  Her marriage is good, they've never had financial worries, everyone's health is good... everything seems to be peaches and cream at their house. 

Now, one of two things is happening here.  Either this gal does have her share of struggles, and she doesn't share about them, or she really is living a nearly perfect life. 

I know the woman a little bit, and to be honest, as far as I can tell, it's pretty much peaches and cream.  Which is wonderful.  I would never wish unhappiness or trials on anyone.  And God allows what God allows.  We simply can't compare our lives with anyone else's.  But I also can appreciate why my friend feels a lack of understanding.  It's the difference between sympathy and empathy.

It reminds me, once again, that God knows what He's doing.  I know already that He allows trials and difficulties in our lives, and I know that He's got His reasons.  But here's one I generally don't think about ~ it enables us to love others a little better.  

I love 2 Corinthians 1:4, which says that we are comforted in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  I love knowing that He comforts us, and expects us to turn around and bless others the same way we've been blessed.  But I really never thought about that fact that it wouldn't be possible for Him to comfort us, if we had no tribulation. 

I'm also thankful that we have Him.  That He withstood pain and temptation while on earth, so that we need never feel a lack of empathy.  He gets it.  He has walked the roads we walk, and has wisdom to share.  And He's right where we need Him.

~ "For we do not have a High Priest 
who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, 
  but was in all points tempted as we are, 
yet without sin." ~
Hebrews 4:15

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