What gives you comfort? Your hands enfolding a cup of tea? Savoring a piece of chocolate cake? Falling into the loving embrace of your spouse? Sitting beside a crackling fire in your favorite sweater with good book in hand? There are many pleasures in this life that do give wonderful comfort, but nothing comforts the soul accept the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Question one of the Heidelberg Catechism asks a good question about comfort. It asks, “What is your only comfort in life and death?” I don’t think this question ignores the reality of earthly comforts enjoyed, but I do think this question searches for the only or exclusive comfort which truly and wholly comforts the soul. Let’s face it, when we are living with chronic pain or breathing our last breaths, chocolate cake may taste sweet, but it will not calm our fear and anxiety and infuse our soul with peace!
The Heidelberg Catechism begins its answer like this: “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.” True and resilient comfort for the soul comes in believing, in knowing, that you belong, not to yourself, but to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In his well-known poem titled “Invictus,” the late atheist William Ernest Henley concluded, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” In addition to being a thoroughly egocentric conclusion, this is a lonely and restless conclusion. Staunch individualism and self-determination are hopeless when we face insurmountable problems and the certainty of meeting God face-to-face. True comfort is enjoyed in life and death only when your soul is assured that Jesus Christ has taken you for himself, to love you, care for you, and defend you before the righteous throne of God.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, the Apostle Paul gave the Corinthian church deep comfort in saying, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Our only comfort in life and death is the assurance that in love Jesus shed his blood on the cross to purchase us for himself. We do not belong to ourselves, and this is our greatest good, for in belonging to Christ, Christ cares for us in ways that we cannot care for ourselves. As master of our own fate and captain of our own soul, we cannot satisfy the demands of God’s holy law, cannot please God, and cannot escape His justice. But the Apostle Paul said in Titus 2:14 that Jesus Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” The greatest comfort for the human soul, in fact the only true comfort, is to know, “I am not my own,” which means that Jesus Christ gave his life to possess our life, body and soul. Comfort comes in trusting that Jesus has redeemed us from all lawlessness, has purified us, has reconciled us to God. Comfort is knowing that because of Christ alone and the gift of his righteousness, because of solidarity with our faithful Savior, we are accepted and loved by God. To belong to Christ Jesus is to be loved by God because anyone united to the Son by grace alone through faith alone is loved by the Father.
Your soul will find comfort when you lay down the burden of being the master of your own fate and captain of your own soul and rest in belonging to Christ body and soul. Your soul will rest comfortably when Christ is your life and in death Christ is your only hope.