We all know what comfort food is all about — finding consolation in carbs. Somehow, a mountain of broccoli doesn’t calm our anxious hearts or fill the aching void in our souls.
But honestly, how long does a mac and cheese fix really last? How about a pint of Ben and Jerry’s? Like all material things, don’t they over-promise, under-deliver, and leave a residue of regret?
Not so with the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. We know this, but do we know it in a way that makes mac and cheese a non-contender? When we’re assaulted by the slings and arrows of life, how can we experience God’s comfort in such a way that we aren’t lured by savior-substitutes? How do we go about acquiring such a renewed mind?
Amazingly, it’s actually possible think about suffering in such a radically different way that we can say with the Apostle Paul, “… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope …” (Romans 5:3–4).
Rejoice in our sufferings? How? Let’s look at four principles using the acronym HOPE:
H — Hope in the right thing. Naturally, we pray for God to remove our suffering; we should, just like Paul prayed that the Lord would remove his thorn in the flesh. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7–10.) But what if all our hope is in that and he doesn’t? It’s a set up for bitterness and despair. We need to shift our trust from a change in circumstances to — what? — trust that he is sufficient — that he will sustain us through our hardships. And not just eking by, but running with endurance. (See Hebrews 12:1.) Our hardships make us weak, but his power is made perfect in weakness. Pray for that, and you’ll know you’ve got the right kind of hope.
O — Offer a word of thanks. While a sense of self-entitlement festers with bitterness, gratitude sprinkles Miracle Grow on our joy. In the midst of hardship, can you see any evidence of his mercy? Did you wake up to clean, running water? Is there food in your fridge? Did he let you see a beautiful sunrise? It takes being intentional to direct our hearts toward thanksgiving, but to do so is to take up a sword and shield in the fight for joy.
P — Perceive God’s loving hand in hardship. We honor God when we acknowledge that he is working for our good, even when we can’t see it. It honors him because we are thinking right thoughts about him — that he is perfect in wisdom, power and love. If this is a struggle, pray he’d help your unbelief. (See Mark 9:24.)
E — “Eyes on the prize” is more than a snappy slogan; it’s the mindset that Jesus had as he faced the Cross. (See Hebrews 12:2–4.) What are the benefits of hardships? To name a few: the possibility of developing, here in this life, a stronger, purified faith, endurance, and a more Christ-like character. We also want to keep the prize of eternity in mind — that place of eternal glory — a place where there’s no more pain or sorrow or death, a place so far beyond our imaginings that the sufferings of this moment will seem like a drop in the ocean.
By the power of the Spirit, train your brain to think these thoughts. Bitterness will fade; a better, happier, more sanctified you will emerge. And the fleeting pleasure of comfort food will pale in comparison to the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.