Summer can have quite a few blockbusters but quite frankly what’s been released over the last couple of months has not peaked my interest. Much of them have seemed kind of lamo. I do enjoy a good movie with action or a good story. We get coupons through Air Miles which helps us save on the ticket prices and pop and popcorn are freebies. I remember buying snacks one time and swore I’d never do it again. Does popcorn really cost that much to make…really? I’m ranting…anyway, sometimes movies can really take you away. I can sometimes walk out of the theatre after sitting for a couple of hours and not remember the city that I’m in. I also forget the pain that I was going through when I went in: whether it be relational, personal, family, financial, or whatever. I guess the tag line for the movie theatre is right, ‘escape with us’.
Many of us, when we’re really honest, do not flee to God…not right away, anyway. Sometimes not at all. When life gets difficult in relationships, in church world, in our neighbourhood, in the workplace, there is always another place that promises comfort. It is a stick your head in the sand mentality. We ignore the difficulties hoping that they’ll get better and we escape for the time being.
If you’re male, video games can be one of those places. And when I identify certain places that we flee I’m not saying that doing these things is bad in and of themselves, but moderation is key. If you suck up hours on end in front of a screen, ignoring your God, your family, your friends, your responsibilities, you are on the wrong track and you really need to pull the plug or at least set the timer.
Maybe video games isn’t your thing. Maybe it’s shopping. When life gets tough, you spend. Some call it retail therapy. Some can watch episode after episode of a particular TV show and dive right into a fictional world. Some can surf the Internet for hours. Some will go to the fridge with a spoon and eat ice cream out of the carton…regularly. It’s comforting…that’s why we call it comfort food…until our clothes aren’t comfy anymore because they’re tight! But the purpose of difficulties are for our sanctification. When you feel like your head is in a vice it causes you to run…but do you run in the right direction? Do you make tracks to the Strong Tower?
 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 ESV)
Paul was the dude, the man, the guy, the Apostle. He is my favourite New Testament faith warrior. The pain for him was getting more than a little unbearable…it was a lot unbearable… and he despaired of life. Death was looking pretty good. He knew that it was better to be with Christ by far. He felt like the water was up around his neck. He was drowning. Is there really any purpose in that kind of pain? Your new husband has been diagnosed with a fatal disease and the doctors give him no more than nine months to live. Your teen daughter who has been a model Christian all of her life comes home and she drops the pregnant bomb on you. You have been the faithful employee but you get passed over for a promotion, or, your factory is closing and moving to a different country. Your wife of eight years comes to you in tears and says that she is leaving you and your three kids. These are the things that can absolutely crush you.
But notice that he mentions the benefit in :9. He mentions that the pain forced him into a corner to cry out to God. The God who has so much power that He can raise the dead, do you think that He can maybe muscle up some comfort to come alongside you? Pain forces us to be dependent. We are dependent on God for absolutely everything and pain reminds us of that. Pain forces us to rely on God. I’m encouraged every time that I read through Job, because he survived. We can be encouraged by reading Joseph’s life story because that guy ran the gauntlet for years. What we read in a few minutes took place over many years! God supplied His grace. I love the account of David and how he responded to Saul in the worst of circumstances. I would have been tempted to take Saul’s head off if I were in David’s sandals!
Difficulty causes us to rely on the God of all comfort. And we may go in with prayers of desperation but may well walk away with greater comfort knowing that God’s on the throne and He does answer prayer. Not always as we want and not always in our timing, but He does answer the prayers of His children. I don’t know the pain you carry these days. I don’t pretend to. I don’t know if you have a bogus place to run for comfort. I have a few but I do know that our Strong Tower is the best place to run first. You may not have any pain today. Life may be coasting along just fine and if it is, praise the Lord…but remember that tough times will come. They will. And He is the Strong Tower that we’ll find comfort in. And in our pains and struggles we discover the deeper graces of God.