God always exists to comfort and console his people:
An eternal God who never changes is a great comfort and consolation to grieving, hurting and suffering people. That message is found throughout Scripture. ‘God is a very present help in times of trouble’ – and so is his word. When we are going through deep waters, it is amazing just how helpful and healing Scripture can be.
I write this piece because – as with all people – tough times continue. And sometimes it seems that one calamity and trial piles up upon another. As many of you know, I lost my wife to cancer a month ago. And ten days ago her dad was taken to hospital. This morning he too passed away.
It is tough on all of us, especially my sister-in-law who has now lost all of her immediate family (but she still has a terrific husband and two grown sons). Yes, we all suffer in so many ways, and I think that while we will have to go through another funeral and so on, some other folks certainly can seem to suffer so much more.
I think of those in Ukraine for example, so many of whom have not only lost many loved ones and family members, but often have literally lost everything, including their own homes and possessions. But all loss is tough to bear nonetheless, and each bit of suffering is unique and equally tragic.
Prayers of course are appreciated, especially for my sister-in-law. But as I say, Scripture abounds with words of comfort and hope. In my morning reading I came upon another such passage. It is found in Isaiah 49. The context is about how ancient Israel had been in captivity – in exile – due to its disobedience, but God had raised up the pagan king Cyrus to liberate them and allow them to return to their homeland (see especially Isaiah 44-45).
God’s words to Israel as found in Isaiah 49:13-16 can still apply to his people today:
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted.
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.”
As the passage mentions, it is even possible that a few mothers might forget about or turn on their own children. But God never will. In her own last weeks of life, my wife had penned letters to each of our sons. How could she forget them? How much more so can the God of heaven never forget his own people.
And the good news gets even more remarkable. Cyrus prefigured an even greater liberator: Jesus Christ who would die on a cruel cross to set us free from our captivity to sin and bring us back to our own proper homeland – to God himself. So the words of Isaiah were not only of great comfort to Israel way back then, but they serve as a double comfort to us today.
First, God does not forget his own. He never will. That is so good to know. And second, all this is based on the fact that Christ came to restore lost sinners to a right relationship with God. Those who turn to him in faith and repentance can experience the most glorious of homecomings – one that brings us deep peace and comfort now, and that will be fully realised when we meet him in the next life.
That is good news indeed. Yes, in this life our trials, troubles, hardships and sufferings will seem to be never-ending at times. But what is really never-ending – what really lasts forever – is God’s great love and care for his people. I sure need this right now. And many of you do too.