Comforting while Being Comforted
Do we have to be fully healed before we reach out to others? Absolutely not! Obviously, if we are bleeding profusely from open wounds we need to have our own needs taken care of first. In the opening instructions of an airline flight the attendant always reminds parents to put their oxygen masks on first in the case of a sudden drop in cabin pressure. They can’t help their children if they allow themselves to lose consciousness.
On the other hand, if we wait until all of our hurts are completely cured before we attempt to share God’s comfort, we might never be used. There is a balance between healing and helping, but at some point we need to rise above our circumstances and re-engage in ministry. When we do, we begin to reclaim God’s purpose in our lives, sometimes causing our own recovery to accelerate. In nothing else, when we walk alongside other hurting people we remember we aren’t the only ones and it is easier to put our trials in perspective.
The first Christians had no choice but to comfort others, even as they were receiving God’s comfort in the midst of trouble. One of the most amazing conversation stories in the New Testament occurred in Philippi where Paul and Silas had been imprisoned for their faith. Even though both of them were beaten and chained, they found the strength to sing songs of praise. As a result of their witness, and a providential earthquake, a prison guard found salvation (Acts 16:19-23). In his second letter to the church at Corinth Paul wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Notice, Paul says God’s comfort gives us the ability to comfort others “in all our troubles”; not after them.