COMPASSION & COMFORT
SOUTH HARTING to BIGNOR
Bignor is a lovely little village. Good to hear that the retiring vicar (part-time) is having success in getting people along to services. We received lovely hospitality from Anne – A beautiful meal and good conversation. She was worried that she hadn’t offered overnight accommodation at her home.
Extract from Reflections Journal Wednesday 16th August 2017
We took a bus detour from the planned route and visited Chichester in order to get some more blister plasters for Chris. It was clearly a relief for him to have some time resting his feet and by the time we had done a little shopping and fought our way through the crowded streets we were both happy to get back on the footpaths to Bignor.
I calculated that at this stage of my journey I have climbed more than the equivalent of climbing to the top of Mount Everest and closing in on two thirds of my days I am sure that by the time I arrive in Canterbury I will have doubled this at least.
I saw this picture painted by Hannah Dunnett in Bignor. “God of all Comfort”, the painting offers a message of hope in difficult times – “I am He who will sustain you… I have made you and I will carry you.”
What does it mean that God is the God of all comfort?
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 receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3–4
When I think about the idea of comfort I see that there are always two people (or perhaps groups) involved. Somebody who gives comfort and somebody who receives that comfort. Our need for comfort is interesting in that it is something we can need for things that have happened, things that are happening and also things yet to happen – past, present and future we sadly live in a world where we are often in need of comfort but ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ that He is always on hand to comfort us.
Paul’s description of God as ‘Father of compassion and the God of all comfort’ is a beautiful reminder that our God, in His love, grace and mercy, desires to bring hope into our lives. He wants us to experience His compassion and comfort in all situation, and we should not just be grateful for this, but we should be singing His praises because of it.
There is a song I first heard a few years ago called ‘God Of All Comfort’ by Olly Knight & James Palmer. It is a beautifully simple song of praise and lament and was written at the time of the death of James’ wife Ceri, aged just 22. It is a beautiful song in itself but for me it takes on an even deeper meaning, beauty and significance as I realise the strength of faith and hope that must have filled these two young men as they wrote it in such challenging times.
God of all comfort and God of all peace
God through our trials and God in our grief
My Rock and my Refuge brings rest to my soul
The Father of comfort is making me whole
God of all comfort and God of all grace
God in our sorrow and God in our pain
My Saviour shed tears over suffering and death
Jesus who comforts shares my lament
God of all comfort and God of all care
God in our questions and God through despair
My Healer draws near and His love I receive
The Spirit of comfort is dwelling in me
I will praise Your name, I will praise Your name
I will praise Your name, oh Lord
You can listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3NVqKDEJTw
When Ben first became ill and we received the brain cancer diagnosis I remember days of anger and fear, days when my faith felt like it might not quite be enough. But day by day I found that God’s compassion and comfort were powerful enough for even the darkest days. Together with His love and grace they held me up and turned me back to the hope I already knew that I had, and that Ben had.
I can understand how tragedy can lead to some people falling away from faith and from a relationship with God. The world makes all sorts of promises to us and unfortunately, we too often confuse them with the promises that God has made to us. I can remember non-Christian friends who questioned how I could still believe in God after Ben died, and even some Christian friends who struggled with it. Some people suggested at the time that perhaps it was being a minister that got me through it, but I don’t think that’s true at all. I don’t believe any job, appointment or role in church gives us extra ability to deal with challenges and difficulties. I believe it comes down to trust. I learned from Ben a simplicity of faith that was bound up in his absolute trust in God. Before this my prayers had been of the ‘God, please fix this’ or ‘God’ please take this away’ type, afterwards they became much simpler and through them I came closer to the God of Compassion and Comfort – ‘God, today I trust You with everything’.