Monday, January 25, 2010
Knowing God's Comfort (devotional from Life Today)
by Ruth Graham
“For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will
shower us with his comfort through Christ.” (2 Cor. 1:5)
Ruth Graham explores God's comfort in her book Fear Not Tomorrow, God Is Already There
One day, my daughter, Noelle, called asking if I could keep my then-two-year-old granddaughter for part of the afternoon. My desk was stacked high with mail and my email inbox was full, but Noelle assured me that Virginia Ruth would probably nap the whole time. I quickly agreed. I would just put my granddaughter down for a nap and go back to what I needed to do.
When Noelle arrived, she broke the news that she had left both “bear” and “blanket” at home. I knew this would pose some difficulty, but I didn’t realize the seriousness of our situation until I tried putting Virginia Ruth down for her nap. She wanted “bear” and “blanket.” Trying to be innovative, I showed her the monkey that was left over from my son Graham’s childhood, thinking it would substitute for “bear.” She looked horrified when she saw it. Then I offered her a baby blanket that belonged to Noelle. Her big, blue eyes filled with tears and she moaned, “Nooo…” I reached for an old doll, hoping that would comfort her. Her wail grew more intense. I felt helpless. Finally, I scooped my granddaughter up and held her close. I sat down with her as she snuggled and nestled her little blond head on my shoulder. Soon she was breathing heavily and sleeping sweetly.
My granddaughter would take no substitute for her bear and blanket, but so often we try to substitute something else for God’s comfort. God certainly uses relationships and the things of this life to comfort us. The problem comes when we look to our comforts to stop the pain. True comfort doesn’t stop the pain. It makes the situation bearable. It gets us through. We are human – we want the pain to stop. And yet, sometimes, pain is what opens the door to experiencing God’s comfort. It is when we are desperate that He steps in and touches us in unusual ways. He wants to cradle us, rock us, and soothe us.
We need comfort in a host of situations, experiences and emotional states, but there is a difference between needing comfort and what I call “coming undone.” We can come undone in our greatest moments of loss, failure, betrayal or fear. We are unable to find relief. When you are undone, you have exhausted your ability to get comfort from anything around you. People can’t comfort you. None of the familiar comforts work anymore. There’s nowhere to turn. No letup. You’re just undone.
When you are undone, it is as if you have been thrown out of the boat. You can’t touch the bottom, see the shore, or even get a hold of the boat itself. You feel alone and desperate. You can’t see what is ahead, nor can you reach back for what is behind you. You are at a complete loss. You are exhausted physically, emotionally and spiritually. And yet the waves keep hitting you, one after another. You are tired. You can’t battle it anymore. You have none of your own resources left. The problem has taken over, and you can’t focus on the Lord. He is out of focus; everything is out of focus. All you know is the problem. And it is overwhelming.
“Undone” is not a place God wants us to stay. His goal is to comfort us in our brokenness and then lead us out of it. But you do have an enemy committed to keeping you undone. He will use whatever means necessary to shut you down and convince you that you will never function and never be whole again. The enemy wants you to believe that undone is the new normal.
Jesus enlightens Peter about the enemy’s plan against him as they are sitting at the Passover meal. To his headstrong, passionate, willful disciple, Jesus says, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat.” (Luke 22:31) That’s what the enemy wants to do – sift us, fragment us, take us apart. When Peter is older, long after Jesus has been crucified and resurrected, the seasoned disciple-turned-leader advises the early church with a similar warning: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
Satan knows our failures and weaknesses. He knows our fears and the areas in which we find ourselves insufficient. The Bible calls him “the accuser” (Revelation 12:10) Some of his diabolical words will sound familiar to you:
“Nothing will ever change.”
“No one will ever love you.”
“You can’t possibly do that.”
“You’re inadequate for this – you’ll never pull it off.”
“You’ve blown it again.”
“You’ll always be a failure.”
“You’re destined for mediocrity.”
“Your hopes and dreams will never come to pass.”
“God can’t use you anymore. You’ve made too many mistakes.”
These are the kinds of words the enemy sows into our minds and hearts, but Jesus calls Satan “a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) We don’t have to believe what the enemy says about us. We have the Word of God, which tells us what God says about us. Someone far greater than the enemy is living in our hearts and fighting on our side. (1 John 4:4)
God does not create our ruins. The Bible says, “The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins.” (Isaiah 51:3, emphasis added) God sees us floundering in that water. And He is looking at us with compassion. The verse from Isaiah goes on to say, “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.”
Undone is never the final chapter with God. He promises comfort. He promises restoration. He promises joy and gladness. Thanksgiving. The sound of singing. No matter what the enemy says or does, we can know God’s comfort in our ruins. God will make our ruins opportunities to woo us with His love.
Where are you in need of comfort? Write down the areas in which you feel “undone.” Draw near to God and ask Him to meet you in the place of your pain.
“God, I hurt, but I believe Your promise to comfort and restore me. I give you my pain and invite you to heal my heart. Please help me to know Your deep comfort. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Adapted from Fear Not Tomorrow, God Is Already There by Ruth Graham
© 2009, Ruth Graham. Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.