There’s something really great about that word “alongside.” It speaks of friends sharing jokes, strangers sharing problems. It speaks of life as it should be lived… in community.
And “God …comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it,
he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” (2 Cor 1 MSG)
I love that moment at the Last Supper when Jesus bends over backwards to reassure his troubled followers: “Let not your hearts be troubled,” (John 14). Don’t worry, don’t worry. Worry is a misuse of your imagination. So he tells them where he’s going. He tells them that he’ll always be with them. He tells them that prayer will bring them close and they will never lack. So what is there more to fear?
It’s a classic Coming Alongside moment.
I read one of those inspirational posters today that said: Why not choose today to be a little kinder than you have to? Why don’t you come alongside others when their hearts are troubled?
Well, here’s the thing. I sometimes lack that overflow of generous giving because my mind is too full of my own woes. I just don’t notice others, because I’m too busy worrying about myself.
When life is tiring, when you are struggling with your stuff, when bills aren’t paid, when school is difficult, when work is exhausting, when your health is failing, when your loved ones are hurt, when the future is unsure, and when a good friend leaves, it is easy to become self-absorbed and discouraged.
And discouragement is a thief. It steals your joy, your peace, and your content. If discouragement stays a while, its friends soon arrive. Their names are fatigue, hopelessness, despair, self-pity, depression, doubt, and bitterness.
Discouragement, in a word, makes you blind. You become blindly ungrateful for yesterday’s blessings, blindly indifferent to today’s opportunities, and blindly insecure about tomorrow’s challenges.
And if you are blind to the presence of God, then you are also blind to the needs of others struggling in their own lives round about you.
The word in Greek for “comfort” is paraklesis. It means, exhortation, comfort, and encouragement. It is a joining of two words: para and kaleo which means “towards” and “called.” In fact, a form of this word, Parakletos, is used for the Holy Spirit. One who is called alongside. A friend in need.
God comforts us by coming alongside, through our reading of the Bible, through our fellowship with one another, through the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Ever needed to call someone alongside? Of course, we all do from time to time. Because we are all prone to what the Bible calls “afflictions.”
And “God comforts us in all our affliction . . . . so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Affliction (NASB) (“trouble” in the NIV) in the Greek is the word thlipsis. It can be translated as tribulation, trouble, anguish, persecution, burden, and, of course, affliction. Afflictions come in all different shapes and sizes. Sickness, financial difficult, loss of a loved one, an unsure future, a car crash. But also, and this is something very important, affliction occurs in the heart in that place where we get frustrated, confused, and hurt.
And now it starts. All this happens “ . . . so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
You see, God does not comfort you to make you comfortable but to make you comforters.
Lighthouses are built by ship-wrecked sailors. Roads are widened by mangled motorists. Hospitals are built by those who were sick. Where nobody suffers, nobody cares.
When you suffer, you learn to care.
So today, why not imitate God? “God …comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”