“Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song O mountains! For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.” Isaiah 49:13
“For this is what the Lord says: ‘I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you…” Isaiah 66:12-13
A Fortunate Bible Study
About a month ago, I happened to fall into a small group that would be doing word studies weekly on the “Fruits of the Spirit.” In hindsight, this feels very God-ordained and directed to me personally. Who in this challenging season doesn’t need more reality of these Holy Spirit inspired traits? Things like joy, patience, kindness, self-control and especially (agape) love are at a premium right now in our very sad world. We’ve all lost so much and in such a short time. It’s hard to grieve in all this transition, because every day we wake up, there are new difficulties bombarding us. The overwhelm has been disorienting—a simple coffee, a happy hour “out” at a shop or restaurant seems ages ago.
A Study on the Fruit of Peace
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been wrestling in all this discomfort that is plainly grief. I’m in denial one minute and then angry at the grocery store the next–tears well up out of nowhere occasionally. But, I think the worst is being gripped by fear and anxiety—which can come with its own heart pounding, ruminating bouts. It was after a week of battling those demons, when our word study landed on the word “peace.” I dutifully went to my concordance and began looking up scriptures on this elusive word.
I spent quite a bit of time in Isaiah, because he has a lot to say on the subject. But I was very struck by the passage in chapter 66, which comes at the tail-end of the entire book, and begins this article. God is speaking to Israel and the city of Jerusalem after much judgement and much needed restoration. The Lord speaks tenderly, “I will extend peace to her like a river,” and then moves very quickly to imagery surrounding the need for comfort. Oh, I suddenly connected—when we’re distressed and in “dis-ease” we can move to a place of tranquility and ease by being comforted. My heart immediately echoed this revelation—that’s what I’ve been longing for in all these weeks of confused pain.
Now it’s a very well-known WGA mantra… if we’re not finding the nurture and care we need in healthy ways—we will run to quick-fix remedies to numb our pain. I imagine we’ve seen an upswing of addictive behavior since the pandemic stress has hit us hard—drinking, eating, pornography, anger, denial? This actually wrecks our peace and leaves us in shame. I find myself struggling against these temptations—how have you been coping (comforting)?
God Longs to Comfort Us
It’s during times of temptation, anxiety and grief I find this imagery in Isaiah 66:12 so very reassuring—I love it. First, there is the picture of peace being extended to us “like a river.” It’s hard not to directly think (and sing) the old hymn “It is Well with My Soul” by Horatio Spafford. Peace would seem more like a quiet stream or cheerful, babbling brook, you know, tranquil—but a river? A river feels fast moving, and fills its banks to the brim. Perhaps it’s how we need our peace in times of distress—quick and overflowing.
But my favorite description in this passage is that God longs to comfort us “as a mother comforts her child.” I began thinking of all the ways a mother calms her distraught baby or toddler. It’s very tender. She says soothing words and holds the child close. She gently rocks back and forth, brushing away tears and the picture of nursing is very intimate. My heart can resonate with those very legitimate emotional needs as an adult in anxious moments. To be reassured, comforted, calmed down and even being held (which is hard when you’re self-quarantined alone as a single). I am thankful our God desires to comfort us so affectionately and for us to offer comfort to one another.
The Big BUT…
To be comforted and long for comfort is a very vulnerable reality. Many of us as children were invisible and ignored when consolation was desperately needed. Or being abused was the answer given. We learned ways of soothing ourselves, which is why many of us ended up with addictive backgrounds. We also came to believe our needs weren’t important. Maybe we squelched our legitimate emotional longings—becoming the “pull ourselves up by our own boot straps” kind of independent people. We don’t trust and vulnerability requires safety. These ways of relating are very familiar to me. So, to receive peace and comfort in deep times of personal overwhelm and anguish, we need to be vulnerable with our need. Will we choose that vulnerability, finding safe places or continue to go it alone?
Here are a few questions to reflect on:
What kind of comfort do you need right now in our current world situation?
How might you receive comfort?
How can God and His Holy Spirit (The Comforter) offer you personal peace?
Where Grace Abounds as a Place of Comfort
There has been some discussion and warning coming from various media resources that the next couple of weeks are going to be more dark and challenging. We might be seeing a rise in Covid-19 related illness and deaths. It feels as though we are bracing for more bad news. In light of this, I am reminded of another important passage regarding comfort:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Now more than ever, we should seek our comfort from God in all the healthy ways we can muster. And like the scripture, with the comfort we receive we should comfort those around us. As I said earlier, many of us are dealing with an array and overload of emotions. How can we as WGA come alongside you during this season? We are glad to be offer help with getting connected to mental health resources. Our various groups and prayer communities may be a place of comfort and support during this time. I greatly hope and anticipate the light of Easter, just a few days ago, breaks into this darkness. May the peace of our loving Christ, which surpasses all understanding comfort you in the coming weeks.
A staff member since June of 1992, Scott is a key player in the WGA discipleship ministry. He plans, organizes, and implements every aspect of the Thursday night support group. In addition to public speaking, counseling group participants and training leaders, Scott maintains personal contact with many group members and it is to Scott’s credit that many group members feel personally welcomed, cared for and loved.
Although he holds a degree in graphic arts, he attributes his ministry qualifications to the “school of hard knocks.” God’s abundant grace continues to be the instrument of growth in his life, and he desires to be firmly grounded in the forgiveness and freedom of relationship with Jesus Christ.
Scott attends a Presbyterian Church.
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