Comfort for Troubled Christians
It is easy to get down on ourselves, even blame God, when we see other people succeed while we struggle to just pay bills and put food on the table. Why do they enjoy so many material gains and not we? More painful still is when we observe wicked people thriving and enjoying success after success, especially in the church. There is even an old proverb about this phenomenon: "The greater the scoundrel, the greater his success." But we must not allow these people to distract us from the real point of life or let them get us down. God's will is done among us and even among the wicked regardless of success or failure. Therefore, instead of falling into fear and anxiety, the Psalmist urges us to, "Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him" (Psalm 37:7).
We are not to obsess about others' success (or failure) or follow their example, even though that is our default way of thinking. What is the point? What does our fear and anxiety gain for us? Does any of our worrying or anger drive us to Christ Jesus or does it herd us in the reverse direction? When we get down on ourselves about what other people do and do not do it does not make us better, it only throws us into a slough of despond. Even if we were somehow able to secure the same successes for ourselves that our neighbor enjoys, even if family and friends considered us winners, what have we actually won for ourselves? Have we participated in furthering the kingdom of God? Will we enjoy more comfort and grace in relation to the Christ? Or will we end up cut off from our Savior Jesus?
Whatever the justification, we will not end up better off chasing after earthly rewards. Whether we deserve success or not, whether we earn health, wealth, and happiness or not, whoever waits on the Lord will not be cut off. On the other hand, those who limit their scope of success and failure to this side of the resurrection, they have already received their reward (or punishment) and will be cut off from God at the Last Judgment. The pursuit of material success and rewards will ruin us, as many peoples' example from history demonstrate. In fact, there is no more dangerous person than the one who says, "I have everything I could possibly want, what do I need to worry about God for? What could God do for me that I have not already achieved for myself with or without His help?"
It irks us when we see people who are wealthy, influential, and happy with themselves when we Christians are so often lonely and poor. We begin life with so little and struggle as adults to hold on to the little we gain for ourselves, calling it "making a living." But it is not much of a life, if we are honest. At least, it is not much of a life when compared to the people who are held up as examples of a life well lived.
This is why Jesus sends His Spirit to comfort and support us. True to His baptismal promise to us, our Lord sends His Spirit to overshadow us always. In this way His promises are made concrete and real for us in simple earthly words, water, bread and wine. They are then also brought to bear on our whole life as we go about as children of our heavenly Father. And, as Dr. Luther reminded his students, "The Holy Spirit comforts His dear children and says: 'Do not let it irk you that you have so little and they have so much.' Let them be rich and sated here. It is better for you to have a little with the favor of God than to have a big pile of goods not only from one wicked man but from all of them, with God's disfavor, as they do."
On account of Jesus' bloody suffering and death for us, we believe and know that our help comes from the Lord our God. He takes our side in every adversity and struggle, every temptation and affliction, whether we are considered a success or failure, wealthy or poor, surrounded by admirers or alone. We trust, often in spite of ourselves, that God will act for us at the appropriate time. Even when we do not have as much food on the table as our neighbor, Jesus is our sustenance. Christ gives Himself to us as free gift. He is our food and drink, our home and property. He is all in all for us.
Then, when tough times overshadow us, even when crosses feel as though they will grind us down to nothing and we will be discarded and forgotten, before this would happen Jesus will send all of His angels to rescue us. The One who proves Himself faithful, loving, and kind toward us is our Lord and Savior. Jesus is our food and drink, our home and property, our all in all. He will not allow us to suffer in fear, guilt, and anxiety forever. And even though we may have little in this life in the way of material goods and possessions, we live in abundance because we live in Christ Jesus whose promises to us are irrevocable and unconditional today and always.