"In the twenty-fifth year of our exile . . . " (Ezekiel 40:1)
I don't know how many times I've read the prophet Ezekiel. Forty? Fifty? Yet this time, I noticed an important message nearly hidden in this verse, something I'd never before recognized nor contemplated.
God's prophet was not exempt from the devastation that brought Judah to its knees and into captivity. He shared in their tragedy.
Though I know better, I’ve always liked to believe God’s children will escape the judgment He sends to the ungodly. But Scripture – and human experience – teach differently. Wars take the lives of believers and non-believers alike. Natural disasters destroy churches as well as strip-clubs. Tragedy usually doesn't discriminate between sinners and saints.
Ezekiel went into exile with his godly and ungodly neighbors. But his pain was not without purpose. During those twenty-five years, the prophet lived his life of faith before others. And in so doing could also speak comfort and hope to his neighbors who desperately needed a word of comfort and hope.
But isn’t that what God calls you and me to do – especially when we suffer tragedies alongside our neighbors? After all, it’s easier to share hope with those with whom we share heartache, than it is to offer solace while we remain untouched by life’s pain.
It is as St. Paul wrote to the people in the church at Corinth:
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 affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).