“The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing” (Isaiah 51:3-4).
A brief reflection on God’s comfort in our pain.
When our souls are tragically ripped from us, when searing wilderness pain has us begging for death instead of life, God gently comforts us. When we’re in the midst of unimaginable pain, it may be hard for us to believe that God will comfort us, for our pain continues unabated. But God, unlike many others, doesn’t expect us to quickly snap out of pain-induced depression. And he doesn’t endorse well-meant but ill-timed Christian platitudes like, “God has a plan for all of this,” when it takes supernatural strength for us just to cope with a new day.
No. He knows we’re human—that we mourn and suffer and shake our fists in anger because of the seeming injustice of it all. He understands suffering. And when the pain is most tender, the Holy Spirit quietly makes us aware that God is sitting with us in our pain, and like a mother with a young child, God beckons us to lay our heads down in his lap so he can gently and lovingly stroke our foreheads.
At first we resist, sobbing, shaking, screaming, pounding our fists in hysterics, demanding answers, trying to make sense of it all. Like a young child, we lack the maturity to comprehend the meaning of the soothing answers God offers.
But as his love and kindness penetrate our fitful senses, our sobs and soul seizures cease. Slowly we begin to calm down. Again we bury our wet faces in his lap, using his robe to wipe away tears and runny noses. Although there’s been little change in our circumstances, we feel a slight but perceptible shift inside of us as we gaze into his face. Somehow we feel comforted even without having received satisfactory answers. In the wilderness of pain, God sits with us (perhaps in the form of a friend) as we absorb little doses of his comfort and peace, until we are strong enough to stand up on our own.
How have you experienced God’s comfort in your pain recently?
Have you found that simply gazing at His face has provided comfort, even when you don’t have answers?
Marlena Graves (M.Div. Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, NY) is a by-lined writer for Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics Blog and Gifted For Leadership Blog. She is grateful to have been a member of the Renovare Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation. Her book, A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness (Brazos Press), will be out in June of 2014.