TV and social media ads offer relief from pounding headaches and seasonal allergies. After one or more doses of the perfect capsule or tablet, the ache and congestion resolve.
Maybe you’re not among those who need those remedies, but don’t we all hope for relief from other problems? In current world affairs, we hope to tune into news or open our computer home page to see relief from destruction and death. Closer to home, we look for relief in numbers as teachers and children may be quarantined due to Covid-19..
We look for relief from disappointments in our challenges. We may have a momentary personal reprieve, but friends and family face struggles and we reach out to share their weight in practical ways and prayer. As part of a group text of friends who are prayer warriors, the daily requests include grandchildren, health concerns, long distance family needs, and more. Most days don’t present relief personally or on a wider scale.
How do we manage? I’ve been impressed and encouraged reading the apostle Paul’s approach to hope and relief. One glance at his resume reveals imprisonment, trials, beatings, confrontations, disputes, shipwreck, opposition, and facing certain execution. I’m sure if I were in his place, I’d feel overwhelmed and overloaded and I’d pray for rescue. But we don’t read Paul prayed for rescue for himself or others facing hard times. The prayers in his letters offered another perspective–encouragement to praise and lean into God.
He prayed for joy, peace, and trust no matter what the day held. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
He prayed for wisdom and revelation to know God better. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:15–23)
He prayed for love to overflow and God to be glorified. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9–11)
He prayed for God’s purposes to be fulfilled. “…by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith…” (2 Thessalonians 1:11–12)
We all want pain and heartache to lessen and disappear. We hurt for others. Sometimes losses can’t be fixed; sometimes disappointments move from day to day and appear to take permanent residence. Unlike pounding headaches and seasonal allergies, some problems don’t disappear.
Paul acknowledged the reality of challenges and chose a God-centered perspective. Like the prayer in 2 Corinthians, the comfort he received from God by prayer and experience, he passed on to others. There was purpose in his pain.
“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 (2 Corinthians 1: 3-5 ESV)
Paul didn’t speak as an observer offering shallow talk or prayers with flowery words, he spoke from his real life hard experiences and encouraged us to get through when you can’t get over; and as he worked through, encourage others in hard places.
Search through Paul’s epistles and read his prayers. Which one do you offer as a prayer request or have you seen in your life? Fill in your name or the name of someone who needs a sigh of relief and comfort today.
(You can read more about hope in hard places in Destination Hope: A Travel Companion When Life Falls Apart, Released September 28