"May the God and Parent of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! He is the compassionate Parent and God of all comfort. She's the one who comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble. We offer the same comfort that we ourselves received from God." - 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Common English Bible
One of my most prized possessions is a nine-year-old thank you note from a man I do not know, written on the anniversary of the worst day in his life.
A year earlier I had met the man, his wife, and his mother- and sister-in-law in a hospital birthing room. Also in the room were the man's stillborn first child and more raw pain than I had ever witnessed in my life.
I was the bumbling novice chaplain silently begging God to use me somehow. In the end, at the family's request, I "baptized" Baby Anna as she turned blue in her mother's arms.
I keep her father's card for many reasons. It reminds me of my own brokenness 10 years ago, how I carried within me a deep well of grief even before I walked through that door with a paper butterfly on it. It assures me that God was in the midst of all that unbearable pain, comforting us all. It tells me that life goes on, sometimes in surprising directions, and that even the most shattered of hearts can begin to heal.
I keep the card because God keeps sending me into pain-filled rooms, and because no matter who we are, what we do, or where we live, we inhabit the same beautiful but pain-saturated world.
The father's note reminds me that to receive the fullness of God's comfort, we must fully open ourselves to life's pain. And that's a reminder I need, whether I'm sitting with the parents of a shining 16-year-old boy who didn't wake up one morning, listening to a young person struggling to own their sexuality, watching the dazed suffering of the children of Aleppo, or tending my own inner wounds.
May God comfort you today, that you might be a channel of comfort for others.
Compassionate One, walk through all life's troubles with me, comforting me as I go. Amen.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.