7. COMFORT FOR THE BEREAVED
"How precious also are Your thoughts unto me, O God!"
I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him. Isaiah 57:18
We have here the utterance of God's thoughts to the bereft mourner. He who looked down of old on bondaged Israel, and thus unlocked the thoughts of His heart, "I know their sorrows"—He who, in a later age, watched from the mountain-side the frail bark tossed in the midst of Tiberias, and hastened to the rescue of faithless disciples—says to each poor afflicted one, 'My thoughts are upon you. I have appointed your trial. I have decreed that early, or that unlooked-for grave. Let faith trust Me in this dark hour, when fainting human nature may fail to comprehend the mystery of My dealings.'
The successive clauses of this verse form a beautiful gradation. God "sees," He "heals," He "leads," He "comforts!"
God SEES. He knows all my case, my character, my circumstances. He alone can judge as to the "needs-be" of trial. He has some wise reason for His discipline.
God HEALS. He comes with the balm of His own heavenly consolation. When the wave of sorrow has answered the end for which it was sent, He says, "Thus far shall you go, and no farther!"
God LEADS. He does not inflict the heavy blow, and then forsake. He does not leave the shorn lamb to the untempered winds of trial. "The Lord shall guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought"—guidance and provision, the two pilgrim necessities—and that, too, "in drought,"—when the world's provisions fail!
God COMFORTS. The mother's love for her child is manifested, not at the moment only when it receives some severe injury, but in the subsequent nights of patient, tender care, and unwearying watchfulness. "As one whom his mother comforts, so," says God, "will I comfort you!"
In the hour of sorrowing bereavement many a precious revelation is made of a before unknown or hidden God. In wrestling like Jacob with the covenant Angel, the soul is often brought to feel for the first time, in that struggle-hour, His touch—the consciousness of a Presence, before dimly recognized, is now felt. Like 'Israel,' we may go 'halting' to our graves. But the place of affliction is called by us to the last "Peniel;" for there "we saw God face to face;" and from that hour we have journeyed on, sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.
Let us cleave to this thought of sustaining comfort. Other thoughts of other hearts may have perished. Others that used to think of us, and to interchange thoughts with us, may now only greet us with mute smiles from their portraits on the wall. The parent's arms that comforted us may be mouldering in the dust. The brook that once sang along its joyous music may be silent and still—we gaze upon a dry and waterless channel. But 'Jehovah lives!' Towards the mourner there is ONE heart ever throbbing with thoughts of unalterable love. Weeping one! you can say, in the midst even of intensest loneliness, and through anguished tears, "As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord is thinking about me right now. You are my helper and my Savior. Do not delay, O my God." Psalm 40:17