The Afflicted Take Comfort In God’s Mercy

Found on Pastor Voltattorni’s blog, We are All Beggars:

 

It is not uncommon for the soul to grope for comfort where there is none.

As such, it is often said by Christians who are afflicted from the pressures and problems of this fallen world, that “God will not give me more than I can handle.”  The text to which that common phrase refers is 1 Corinthians 10:13.  Though, in it, the Apostle Paul does not talk about what the Christian can and cannot “handle,” but rather the limits of temptation.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Cor 10:13).

God has not designed our fall into temptation.  He warns against the dangers of complacency and pride calling us to “take heed lest [we] fall” (1 Cor. 10:12), and to “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor 10:14).  But God does not strengthen your faith in your own ability to cope, saying “Don’t worry about your suffering, you can handle it.”  Rather He teaches us that He has not allowed any temptation that will force us into damnation.

Yet, regardless of its validity, this phrase that God will not give you more than you can handle is not where the Christian can find comfort.  So God knows your ability to deal with stress.  What good is that?  Such a notion does not promise an end to your suffering, nor does it assure you of forgiveness when you fail to “handle” suffering.  No amount of meditation on God’s divine sovereignty can bring solace to the afflicted.

Therefore, take comfort not in the measure of your pain, nor in your ability to “handle” distress.  Take comfort only in Christ.  Take comfort that He has born that which brings you despair.  Your affliction has already been suffered by the Son of God. That is why you are to seek refuge not in God’s power over your situation, but in His mercy.  It was His mercy, for which you cry “kyrie eleison,” that caused Him to send His Son to death in your place.  As such, God’s baptized and redeemed children should not lose heart, though not because God will give them more or less affliction according to their ability to handle it, but because their affliction has already been suffered in the flesh of the Son of God.

Therefore, when you are acutely aware of the sin of this fallen world as you are afflicted by its grip around your neck, look upon your suffering and rest assured that this too has been taken to the cross and laid in the grave.

All-loving God, Your mercy has no end, and Your kindness is new each morning. See, I, an afflicted and sorrowful soul, come before Your holy face to pour out the great grief of my heavy heart.  My distressful condition and great misery that has overtaken me are well known to you.  My soul is sorrowful; my spirit is in anguish; numberless afflictions surround me.  I look  around me for helpers, but find none.  Some people refuse to give me comfort; others do not know my distress and I do not reveal it to them.  But to you, O God, I make complaint with a heart full of grief.  I know that You are merciful and moved to pity by our distress.  You took pity on the stricken widow weeping for her son.  You were moved to compassion when You saw the people who had gathered to hear You and had nothing to eat, and Your compassion went hand in hand with Your mercy and comfort.

And so I come to You and plead: have mercy on me!  O God, I am Your creature; do not forsake the work of Your hands.  Yes, I am even more: I am also Your child whom You have taken into the arms of Your mercy in Holy Baptism.  And so I say to You: O my Father, have compassion on Your poor and forsaken child.  My Jesus, I have been bought with Your holy blood; I am Your portion and inheritance, purchased with Your precious blood!  I know You will have compassion on Your own.  O precious Holy Spirit, bear witness with my spirit that despite all my suffering I am still a child of God.  And when I am faint in praying and can hardly put words together any more, You Yourself cry within me: ‘Abba! Father!’

Starck’s Prayer Book, 186.

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