When first written Isaiah’s audience was in exile and great suffering. This message of comfort promises God’s forgiveness and infinite power, reminding us of God’s love for Israel and Judah (the two tribes at that time) never weakened. “The Hebrew word for comfort is naham. It is a deeply emotional word, overflowing with feelings of pity and concern. It is a word that often has the meaning of consolation.” (The Bible Reader’s Companion, Laurence O. Richards)
How deeply we desire God’s comfort and strength to flow into us, enabling us to give to ourselves and our loved ones. There are times we block this comfort by our anger, failure to forgive and resentment. In our humanity, we judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. As we judge other people’s faults, we create barriers between us and them, separating us from God. Only God can soften our hearts with His love, allowing us to be willing to forgive and let go of anger.
We may want to forgive, but actions of others and even God, may have left scars on our hearts. We carry wounds of the past, which can be a loss of any kind – a heartbreaking divorce, a loss of a job or a loved one’s untimely death. Can we gaze into the Lord’s compassionate heart and share our pain? Even if we are ‘yelling’ at God, it keeps the communication going, with the hope that healing is always possible, as we stay aware of God’s presence.
St. John of the Cross said, “At the evening of our lives, we will be judged on love.” We are still God’s hurting people, praying for consolation and inviting God into our relationships to help us heal and love. There will be times of pruning the dead branches of our lives that allow the growth of new leaves to spring up. I have been through this journey many times and gratefully write that there are gifts to be received despite difficult pruning and letting go. One of the gifts is, I try not to dwell on what I cannot change, nor do I put energy into the difficulties of the past. (At least, not as much as I use to.)
Another gift from God’s pruning, is the growth of a new level of compassion – first for myself and my limits as a human being, then for those I am in relationship with, recognizing how we are all struggling, particularly with our loss of control and aging. Most importantly, a gift of pruning is a deeper connection with the Divine. As we welcome God to soften our hearts, deep consolation and care envelope us in loving arms.
When our mind is constantly stirred up with concern, worry and anxiety, our focus on our God given inner voice of insight and understanding, is dimmed. God longs to bring us comfort and encourages us to be our own best friend, lifting our problems with faith and trust and allowing God’s compassionate love to empower and sustain us. Can you share a story of comfort and compassion?