24. WONDROUS COMFORT
"How precious also are Your thoughts unto me, O God!"
"I, even I, am the one who comforts you." Isaiah 51:12
How soothing the thought for the weary head to lean upon, that in the midst of our bitterest trials, we have the great God of heaven for our comforter! 'Dry your tears,' He seems to say, 'I am by your side, you poor afflicted one—other comforts may fail you—other comforters may prove utterly powerless to gauge the depths of your sorrow and to heal your aching wounds—but I, as God, infinite in Wisdom, Omniscience, Love, know all the peculiarities of your case—I will be to you better than the best and tenderest of human friends. My delight is to "uphold all who fall, and to raise up all those who are bowed down." I have 'precious thoughts' reserved for the day of calamity—thoughts that are whispered and confided into the ear only of the sorrowful. "I, even I"—the same hand that has wounded will bind up; the same hand that is strong to smite will be strong to save. I will give you solaces undreamt of in the day of prosperity; songs in the night, and wells of refreshing in the valley of weeping.'
'Is it sickness that has blanched your cheek, and chained you down for weeks and months—it may be years—to a couch of pain and languishing?—"I will not leave you comfortless, I will come unto you!" Is it your worldly schemes that have been blighted—moth and rust corrupting the earthly treasure?—I will give you compensating riches, beyond the spoiler's touch and the throw of capricious fortune! Is it bereavement that has traced lines of sadness on your brow, created vacant chairs in your household, left stripped and desolate your heart of hearts? Be still. I will take the place of the mourned. I will come and fill up these aching voids—that yawning chasm with My own loving presence. The rill is gone, but you will have in exchange the Infinite Fountainhead! Is it sin that is making sad your countenance? the bitter thought of estrangement from Me whose favor alone is life? Wearied with the successive failure of all worldly sources of satisfaction and happiness, are you turning with longing, wistful gaze, like the battered flower to the sunlight, towards Myself, "the living God," wondering if there can be peace and forgiveness for such as you? "I, even I, am He that blots out your transgressions." I will heal your backsliding, I will love you freely; for My anger is turned away from you.'
"I, even I." Do not doubt His ability or willingness to comfort; God is beautifully spoken of as "the God of all consolation," "the comforter of all who are cast down." Wide as the family of the afflicted are, He has consolations commensurate with every diversity of experience. He has a thought of comfort for every thought of sorrow. "In the multitude of the sorrows I have in my heart," says the Psalmist, "your comforts delight my soul." His message to the Church of old, after burden on burden of reluctantly-spoken woe, was, "Comfort, comfort my people,"—(repeating the word is the usual Hebrew method of intensifying) as if He wished to tell, with what delight He passed from the gloomy prophetic utterances of judgment, to the joyous promises of mercy and love.
"He does not afflict willingly," [or, as this may be rendered literally from the Hebrew—'He does not afflict with the heart'] "nor grieve the children of men." As if affliction in itself were alien to the heart and the 'thoughts of God!'
And let the thought of God the Comforter be all the more precious to me, since that God is Immanuel—our Brother on the throne of heaven. Himself once the Prince of Sufferers, He is supremely qualified, by the exquisite sensibilities of His human nature, to enter into every pang that rends the heart. "I, even I," the God-Man who shed tears over the bereaved of Bethany—I, who welcomed weeping penitence to My feet—I, who myself struggled with temptation, grappled with superhuman anguish, lived a life of sorrow, and died a death of shame—I, even I—that same Jesus—"am He that comforts you."
Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up. Psalm 71:20