Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Comfort Me with M&M's

As I mechanically shoved individual peanut M&M's in my mouth I became starkly aware of my need for my upcoming, planned, Lenten fast from refined sugar. With each crack of the colorful candy shells and with each burst of sugar and good-for-you-fat peanut goodness I was finding extremely momentary and fleeting comfort.

Oftentimes, I deal with the stresses of life by seeking comfort. I do not want somone to fix my problem or give me a solution as much as I want a hug, a kind word, a source of refreshment. I find comfort in many of the joys of life: animals, hot tea or coffee, good food (I suppose that's why they call it "comfort food"), laughter, cozy beds and clothing. Nothing changes in my perceived problems in life, but I feel soothed by the comfort I find in these things.

Peanut M&M's can be a poor source of comfort though; and ultimately more of a detriment than an aid. As anything done in excess can be.

In Pslam 119, verse 76 the psalmist says to God, "Let your steadfast love comfort me...".

It is easy to seek comfort in things I can touch, taste, and see. The affects are more immediate, if temporary.

In Isaiah 51, verse 12, God says, "I am he who comforts you...". He also says, in chapter 40, verses 1 and 2, "Comfort, comfort my people....speak tenderly to Jerusalem...".

Finding comfort in God is of course much more abstract. Sure, I can find comfort in the Bible or things written about God, but sometimes there is a need for comfort that transcends books, hot tea, the most comfy pajamas, and even peanut M&M's.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul calls God the "God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction..." (chapter 1, verse 3). Several times the Bible speaks of God's comforting us, but it doesn't say how. Is the stated fact that he comforts us supposed to bring comfort in and of itself? Maybe you have to reach the end of the comfort found in tangible things before you even think to ask that question.

Like everything spiritual, seeking God for comfort has taken faith. Belief, hope, and just plain vulnerability. I cannot force God to comfort me; I can only bring my discomfort and affliction before him and like a child say, "Help?". And then, perhaps (or at least this is what I like to imagine), like a parent, God holds me and assures me that everything is going to be ok. Not because anything is going to change maybe, but because he is with me. Holding me in my weakness, in my fear, in my lack of faith.

And then the M&M's taste too garishly sweet, the crackly candy shells become like tiny shards of gravel in my mouth. Such a poor, poor substitute.

What I find interesting in 2 Corinthians is after Paul talks about God comforting us, he says it is "so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God" (chapter 1, verse 4).

Which brings us back to the tangible. And the wonderful idea that perhaps sometimes, God comforts his people through his people. Maybe the comfort others are receiving through us is simply a transfer of the comfort we received through others. And the cycle originates and continues in and through God - the "God of all comfort".

Something about that excites me. He is The Source and then I am the source, you are the source, that kind lady in the grocery store was the source. And so I can find comfort in a phone call from a friend, a divinely timed text message, a steaming hot bath in a clawfoot tub, or even an innocent fun size bag of peanut M&M' long as I remember the source and creator of all those things. And as long as I sometimes go straight to the source. Lemonade and tea and coffee are all fine beverages, but sometinmes I need a  glass of water. In the same way, sometimes I need to put the M&M's down and let the "God of all comfort" do it. Supernaturally. By my faith.

It's a little like those cheesey faith falls people do in youth groups. If I sit here in my pain, will he comfort me? Or should I hurry up and stuff another M&M in my mouth or have another glass of wine? Just in case he doesn't come through.

In my experience, he does come through. It is a hard path. In my limited attempts, a life of faith is like an uphill climb. And it is the only way I have found to live in peace. The comfort found in food and circumstances and people can all be gifts from God, but ultimately they can and will fail you. The comfort found in an always-present God will never fail me, if I seek it.

I leave you with this lovely sign (that I kind of wish I had in my house), because laughter too is a gift from the "God of all comfort". :)

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