The Heidelberg Catechism begins with the following question:
“What is your only comfort in life and death?”
Your only comfort.
We have plenty of “comforts”, don’t we? In fact, we seem to be a pretty comfortable & comfort-oriented people, at least on the surface. But that is clearly not the kind of “comfort” that the Heidelberg speaks of in Q.1.
Every other source of comfort in this life is uncertain at best, deceptive at worst. Our outward comforts are nice enough as far as they go, but none of them goes remotely far enough. None of them gives us a sure and lasting peace with God. None of them gives us true comfort when our circumstances take a turn for the worse. (In fact most of our earthly comforts can be undone by a change in our circumstances.) And none of them can possibly hope to give us comfort when we approach death.
So what answer does the Heidelberg Catechism give us?
Q.1 What is your only comfort in life and death? A. That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. he also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me whole-heartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
Our only true & lasting comfort both in life and in death is found in Jesus Christ. While people often seek comfort in their belongings, the believer in Christ seeks comfort in the knowledge and assurance that we, body and soul, belong to Jesus Christ. We belong to Him, so at the end of the day (and surely at the end of our earthly lives), it doesn’t matter what belongs to us.
Jesus is our faithful Savior because He bought us with His precious blood. He has set us free from the tyrannical dominion of the devil, and He watches over us at all times so that nothing and no one can touch a hair of our heads apart from the will of God. Not only that, but we can be sure that everything that happens to us (good or bad) will be made to work together for our salvation in some way!
Not only that, but because we belong to Jesus, He has given us His Holy Spirit, who both assures us of eternal life, and makes us willing and ready to live our lives for Him!
What is your only comfort in life and death? If you do not yet know Jesus Christ by faith, turn from your sins; turn from the vain and hollow hope and comfort that you have been finding in other things (your relative morality, religiosity, worldly success etc.), and turn to Jesus Christ by faith.
Then & only then you will have the only real comfort there is in life and death – that you belong body and soul to the faithful Savior Jesus Christ!
(For an excellent – and brief – modern treatment of the Heidelberg Catechism, see The Good News We Almost Forgot, by Kevin DeYoung.)