Sometimes, as Christians, we are blessed with experiences that we simply must share with others and this week is just such an occasion for me.
For many years now I have suffered from ongoing familial struggles which have caused me great heartbreak and until this year I was not handling them in a godly manner. This year, God stepped in … I say this but rather God had been there all the time, but, I had not been prepared to listen to Him! Given the nature of my struggles it is difficult to write about them although I have often been tempted to in order to reach out to others who may be experiencing a similar situation and are like I was, struggling alone. This I must ponder over but for now I write about the comfort of God.
A few days ago, I had been upset throughout the day and I could sense the all too familiar warning signs going off in my head, warning signs that if ignored lead to a very dark place that I do not want to revisit. When my husband, Craig arrived home from work, he immediately decided to pray over me, for the peace and comfort of God to be upon me. As he prayed, I felt peace, my spiralling thoughts start to slow, my anxiety which I had felt throughout my body calmed. My mind which had been frantic 10 minutes previous was now relaxed and I settled down to read my books, something that would have been entirely impossible before this prayer. Later Craig and I decided to play a board game and together we laughed and joked. I cannot begin to describe the power of God in that moment of prayer, the sheer unlikeness of this situation. Many will say, well that just mind over matter, I was convinced that God was working to bring me peace and so I believed it. Well I can tell you that I didn’t believe that was going to happen. I thought my mind had gone way to far to be pulled back, I had it in my head that I would most likely not get out of bed for at least the next few days. You see, I am a sceptic. I hate it. It makes my faith life one big, never ending battle but I am sceptical about everything, my mind is one which works best with scientific explanations, I believe what I can see with my own eyes and what I can touch with my own hands, etc. Despite this, when Craig prayed, although my mind tells me “this won’t work, I am too sad etc. etc.” I felt peace. God comforted me and His comfort has not left me. Of course, I have felt God’s comfort before but in this instance, I was sure, I was past being able to be comforted by God. How naive of me, like the God who created the entire world, universe and heavens cannot make me smile and feel peaceful!!
One of the most beautiful passages on the comfort of God is found in Psalm 23.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Let us unpack these verses a little:-
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.”
The Lord, our God is everything we need. When you imagine a shepherd what do you think of? Perhaps take a moment to think about a shepherd, wandering the hillside surrounded by his flock? What is the shepherd doing? How is he caring for his sheep?
There are many metaphors to describe God, but few that encapsulate so many of the natures of God.
As we see above, we “lack nothing”. God is provider, and He provides us with all we need and more as we see later in the passage “my cup overflows”. Just as the shepherd guides his sheep towards green pastures where he can provide them with good grass, our Lord leads us to where we need to be, He provides us with the food that we need and the peace we require “he leads me beside quiet waters.” He refreshes us. Extremely popular today are Buddhist style spiritual retreats which offer peace and spiritual refreshment. Christian spiritual retreats, however, can often be few and far between yet God tells us that He is the one that brings us peace, He is the one that can refresh us. Jesus tells us “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.
“He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
God is our guide; He is our conscience. When we trust in God, He will lead us down the right path and though it may be vastly different from that which we would choose for ourselves, it will be a much less troublesome journey. God is fearless, whatever danger we face, however much sin we may have involved ourselves in, no matter what sin abounding hole we may cry out from, God will come to our side, He will remain by our side, such is His merciful love for us.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
God looks upon this world with longing, longing to see more and more of us become His sons and daughters and He awaits you in His home, the home which he wishes to share with you forever. He longs to anoint you with oil as He blesses you as His adopted child and thus, we can call him “Abba”.
To those who are struggling as you read this, those who feel as though their struggles are just too much for them to bear, those who have no one to speak to, or no one that can understand their pain, please cry out to God, cry out “Abba”. The Hebrew “Abba” is a term akin to “Daddy”. Although we should never forget how much respect, awe, and veneration we should hold towards our God, at the same time, know that He is your Daddy. He will find you when you are lost, He will provide for you and He will comfort you when you are hurting.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “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.” Paul could have felt that he was beyond the comfort of God, he was beaten, stoned, imprisoned, persecuted, hungry, thirsty, yet, he felt the other worldly comfort of God, through all these pains, Paul felt at peace because of the comfort he received from Jesus.
Before facing His death, Jesus comforted His disciples who were themselves struggling to cope with this prospect. Jesus said to them “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27. Jesus says the same to you now. Rest in peace and comfort in the arms of Jesus.
A note for those that may be suffering. Please do not suffer alone. Get in touch with someone, perhaps your doctor, a friend, family member, an organisation, someone at a local church or drop me a message (and my husband and I can pray for you). Sometimes we can feel as though we are so alone and that we don’t want to bother anyone with our problems and bring them down, but chances are they are only too happy to help. Just think how you would feel were it someone that you cared about. Of course, God can provide the comfort to you but often God will send someone to you, someone to ease your loneliness, ease your suffering so please reach out. If you are searching for God’s comfort today, please pray with me.
Abba, Father, please hear my cry. I am so lost, and I just don’t know where to turn or what to think. Please place your loving arms around me and bring me the peace and comfort of your heart. Hold me close as you pull me up and set my feet on the path of your choosing and hold my hand as you guide me step by step along the way. I ask this in the mighty, loving name of your Son, Jesus through whom it is possible for me to come to you. Amen.
Love and Blessings