If you listen, the world is full of people’s stories and how their lives move in a given direction and how they process things that happened to them.
I listened to an interview on CCFM this week and the particulars of the story are for another time perhaps, but the point was the interviewee, one Katharine Wolf, experienced a major medical setback and was thoughtful and deliberate – and what’s more, full of faith – in the way she responded to it.
Being thoughtful and deliberate and seeking God in the midst of a situation seems like a very rare quality in today’s world. At least if I understand the Zeitgeist (the spirit of the times in which we live). I read too much news, and regularly browse through Twitter and it strikes me that too many people are too comfortable with sin.
Tragedy and setback don’t cause them to put sin on hold and seek God; instead many double down and seek the so-called truth of feelings instead of logic, to say nothing of the Truth of Scripture.
Being uncomfortable isn’t pleasant but it should make the average person consider things.
In reading through Isaiah 40 this week, I was struck by the emphasis on comfort by the Lord as He is speaking to Israel.
“1Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40, NIV)
The context is the previous chapter, 39, where it was announced that Babylon would invade and Israel would be exiled. Why was this so? Because Israel was too comfortable with sin and too unfamiliar with God.
“Isaiah is a book in three sections. Chapters 1-35 are prophetic, with the theme of condemnation. Chapters 36-39 are historic, and the theme is confiscation. Chapters 40-66 are messianic, and the theme is consolation.”
God is a good father and He deals with the sin of his people, both theirs personally and nationally. However in chapter 40 He is speaking comfort to them. This reminds me a lot of after a father or mother has disciplined a child and the Regimental Sergeant Major is done with the verbal tongue lashing and the hug restores the relationship. The mother or father can’t just leave the discipline hanging between them and the child. You have to move back in and remind the child that they are disciplined but loved. So is our Father in heaven. We may have made our own bed with our sin and our relationship with him has strained to the point of correction, yet He loves us and desires to comfort us.
God is mighty and Isaiah 40 explores this but before it does, verse 11 reminds us:
“11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40, NIV)
In reading through John 14 this week, I came across the idea of comfort again. Jesus comforts his disciples. From the context of chapter 13, Jesus had told his disciples that one of them would betray him and that he, Jesus, would be taken away from them that night. In distinction from Isaiah 1 through 39, the disciples were not being disciplined by God, or corrected. It’s just life that happens, and in the midst of that Jesus comforts them.
““1 Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14, NIV)
I like the way this website frames the idea of comfort and why we need it:
“…we humans suffer distress in a unique “three-dimensional” way—past, present and future. We remember previous distresses and are filled with grief or regrets (Genesis 37:35; Matthew 26:75). We face each day’s troubles and worry (Matthew 6:25–32). We reflect on these things and dread what may come next (verse 34). And beyond these worldly matters is that most distressing sensation of all, the guilt for having deeply, inexcusably offended our good and righteous Creator and Judge (James 2:10–11; Revelation 6:16).
Believers in Christ have a comfort from God that includes a true freedom from guilt.”
When I’m uncomfortable – which happens regularly on a Monday, but can really be anytime – I call out to Him. My discomfort doesn’t magically disappear (ask Paul about that thorn in the flesh; 2 Corinthians 12), but I’m going through the experience with the Holy Spirit.
I think of Isaiah 40 and John 14 and am reminded that he tends His flock, gathers the lambs and carries them to Him, leads those that have young and is preparing a place for me.