Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. And a considerable number of the Jews had gone out to see Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.”
John 11: 18-19
“The easy path in the lowland hath little of grand or new,
But a toilsome ascent leads on to a wide and glorious view!
Peopled and warm is the valley, lonely and chill the height,
But the peak that is nearer the storm cloud
is nearer the stars of light.”
Frances R. Havergal
Thoughts for Consideration:
What does the phrase “consoling comfort” mean to me in relationship to my heavenly Father and His guiding hand?
“God knows that life can throw us up against a wall with no options and that the pain can be intense. But He stands vigil over us like a pillar of cloud and fire. We are beautiful to Him, and His eye is continually upon us. He will be our strength and refuge while we wait in the dark. He will hold us as a Father holds His wounded child.”
“We must set our faces like a flint to believe, under each and every sorrow and trial, in the divine Comforter, and to accept and rejoice in His all-embracing comfort.”
Hannah Whitall Smith
Several months ago I came upon an old book entitled, Masterpieces of Christian Verse. As a lover of poetry, I truly believed that through the years I had acquired nearly all the books of Christian poetry available. Well, I was wrong! This special book has opened up a world of poetry written down through time by individuals who loved to express their vision and passion for Christ through poetry.
It has taken weeks for me just to get through half the poems in my nightly reading time until I found the poem titled, “God’s Way.” It wasn’t the first few stanzas that caught my eye. Instead, it was the lines at the end of the poem which grabbed my attention first. I’d like to share these words with you:
“I found that sorrow, worn
As duty’s garment, strength supplies,
And out of darkness meekly borne
Unto the righteous light doth rise.
And soon I found that fears which stirred
My startled soul God’s will to do
On me more lasting peace conferred
Than in life’s calm I ever knew.”
As I tried to absorb these words along with the Biblical record containing the descriptive story of Bethany’s premiere family, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, I couldn’t help but recall the days right after the sudden death of my father. What our family had hoped would be a quiet time of reflection quickly turned into an “event.” My parents had many friends. It soon became evident that no one wanted to feel left out of the planning of my dad’s funeral. And so a small gathering of people turned into hundreds of friends and family who, much to my surprise, needed to be comforted – and consoled. This was a shock to me. But it also became a lesson on the gift of “comforting one another,” as the Apostle Paul told his close friends.
One of my dad’s best friends was out of town when he died. We had tried in every way possible to reach him but to no avail. Upon arriving back home, he was going through the mail stacked up and happened to come upon the newspaper that contained my dad’s obituary. When the phone rang at our house, I could barely understand the voice for the sobbing on the line concealed Bill’s identity. And then there were these words, “Dorothy, is this true?” I had to admit that it was no mistake and then the weeping only increased with my confirmation. After several moments, all I could think to say was, “Would you like to come over to our house?” Bill promptly answered, “Oh yes,” and 30 minutes later he and his precious wife were sitting in our house, not saying a word, just weeping with us. When my thoughts return to that very dark time, I am most struck by those moments when words were unnecessary and it became a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on that meant the most.
Nearly five years after my father died, I was asked to lead out in a program that was referencing some of my dad’s involvement with young people and for a moment during the presentation I had to stop to bring my emotions under control. When I finished my talk and was seated, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see another one of my father’s friends, with tears streaming down his face, as he softly whispered in my ear, “I want you to know, I loved him, too.”
I share these deeply personal stories with you for this reason. The Apostle John tells us that “many” went to “comfort” Martha and Mary. In the Greek, the word John chose to use means “to come near and encourage.” On more than one occasion, I’ve heard people refer to this event at the tomb of Lazarus as a time when “paid mourners” were there to weep. But the Bible doesn’t say that nor did John leave that record. Rather he uses words that show us the kind of comforting love we can bring to those around us when life comes calling with a box of grief and pain. There’s nothing like someone you care about being with you, even silently, just there to encourage your heart when you ache.
Recently, I was emailing a close friend about my cousin, a well-known choral conductor here in Arizona. Come to find out, my friend Betteanne knew my cousin and her husband. And as we began swapping stories, I recalled the fact that when Jim and I were fighting for our lives after the accident, my beautiful cousin took time out of her tremendously busy schedule, to give my mother a break when she came and sat by my bed in Trauma-ICU with her hand on top of mine. No moving. No talking. Nothing was necessary but the touch of love.
In this sad world with so many people feeling alone and with their aching hearts nearly shredded to pieces, we can give the gift of consoling comfort. It has been said, “We should treat every heart we meet as if it was breaking, because it probably is.” Look around you. Who needs your gift of “consoling comfort” today?
In Him Confiding
“Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord who rises
With healing on His wings.
When comforts are declining
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.
In holy contemplation
We sweetly then pursue
The theme of God’s salvation,
And find it ever new.
Set free from present sorrow,
We cheerfully can say,
Let the unknown tomorrow
Bring with it what it may.”
“Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.”
Psalm 42: 11
“Today has been a restless day,
things going wrong in all directions,
and my anger rising – at others,
at circumstances, at myself.
God, You are in the midst of this,
I sense Your presence…
pushing me, pursuing me,
restless Yourself until I change.
I am ready to let rip,
to hurl stones into oceans,
to pound my fists into a brick wall.
I am ready to shout,
to rip sheets to shreds,
to curse the darkness,
to bury my head into warm flesh and sob.
I am afraid, God;
there is no one here but You and me,
my friends are out or busy or far away.
Do I trust You enough to give You my
anger, my loneliness?
Do I believe You enough to reach through
the emptiness and grasp for Your hand?
God, I love You.
I can say no other words.”
“O Father God, I cannot fight this darkness by
beating it with my hands. Help me to take the light of Christ
right into it.”
Prayer from Africa
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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