“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who 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. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
The Gulf is dimpled glass this morning, reflecting blue. On the bottom I see but cannot reach are sand dollars, imprints of starfish, and crab craters. I paddle above schools of fish, dash-sized and larger, and watch their morning exercise sweep them in esses and pock the water like silver rain. I spot a sea turtle and he spots me, quickly to re-submerge his crackly head. A flock of pelicans glides gracefully by. All is calm, all is bright. Eight hundred miles to the north, all is raging, all is dark, as Hurricane Florence unleashes her wrath on the North Carolina coast.
A year ago, her cousin-once-removed, Irma, was wreaking violent havoc with where I am now. I know the pulsing anticipation, the sweaty preparation, the concern for the unknown, the opening of the hand on all you own and planned for, the waiting. And I know the untouchable peace of the God of all comfort Who rides every storm. There is nothing like enduring the wrath of a hurricane, or the death of a parent or grandchild, the pain of a loveless marriage, the journey of a debilitating or terminal illness, to teach us lessons of breath-taking suffering and God’s palpable comfort, and to enable us to empathize with and offer comfort to others in similar distress. There is a mysterious draw to, a connection with, others who have shared our sorrows.
Lord, broaden my heart and care for others. May no storm, no suffering, no grief be wasted. May the inexplicable comfort You give regenerate through me into comfort shared. Because of my storms, I will never be the same; because of the storm You suffered for me on the cross, life is never the same. Allelujah.