The sociologist Rodney Stark has written (in The Rise of Christianity) that one reason the church overcame hostility and grew so rapidly within the Roman empire traces back to how Christians responded to pandemics of the day, which probably included smallpox and bubonic plague. When infection spread, Romans fled their cities and towns; Christians stayed behind to nurse and feed not only their relatives but their pagan neighbours’. Their proffered comfort drew others to the God of all comfort.
You can follow the trail of Christian missionaries by the hospitals, clinics, and orphanages they founded. Virtually every advance in the understanding and treatment of leprosy came from Christian missionaries—not because they were the best physicians and scientists, but because they were the only ones willing to treat that misunderstood and dreaded disease. Following Jesus’ example, they risked exposure by reaching out to the leprosy-afflicted.
Jesus knew suffering up close, as a willing victim of our planet’s brokenness. When Jesus ascended to heaven, He sent his followers into the world “as the Father has sent me,” to be God’s agents of comfort and healing.
“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 tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4
This is the mission of the church in a world full of pain and suffering. Church are you being obedient to God’s command?
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6