Posted by: Brad Beaman | August 23, 2012

Comfort for the Hurting

This may be a dark time for you because of…., you fill in the blank. Most people have great difficulties in their life. God knows you need comfort.

Everyone has, is or will experience some hurt or some crises that causes them extreme pain and brings on grief. The problem with grief is that those who experience it feel so helpless to do anything about it. Those who are in pain and grief need comfort.

To comfort someone means to sooth them in their distress and sorrow. What do we tell the hurting who needs comfort? Do we just tell them to “suck it up?” God cares for the hurting and we should care too. God is the one who can truly comfort the downcast and he calls his people to be agents of that comfort.

Isaiah 40 is one of the great Bible passages on comfort. The words of Isaiah 40:1-11 are a balm of comfort for the hurting.

Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.
3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the LORD;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
6 A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever. ”
9 You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

The original purpose of these words were to comfort Israel in their affliction. The cause of their greif, their Babylonian captivity was about to come to an end. The bondage of Israel would soon be broken and they would be set free.

The circumstances did not appear comforting, but God said they were. In the time of despair God’s voice of comfort was heard. Their captivity was about to end and they would be restored to their land.

Who should help the hurting? The answer is God’s people. Why does God call His people to help the hurting? It is because they need comfort. Most churches have comfortable padded pews and climate control to keep you comfortable even when it is extremely hot or cold outside. That ain’t going to cut it for those with the unbearable pain of sorrow or grief.

Comfort is going to bring a renewal of strength. True comfort is going to give encouragement. Giving genuine comfort is helping the hurting find new strength for each new day.

To really comfort the hurting is going to take sensitivity. When the prophet Ezekiel is called to preach to those hurting in captivity he is also called to experience their suffering (Ezekiel 3:15). In verse to the comforter is to speak tender words. For Israel their comfort came because the situation was about to change. Something good was just around the corner.

Their hard service in captivity is coming to an end. Their sin has been paid for double. It is sufficient as God sees it. To know that God forgives sin brings comfort. God does not deny or ignore our sins. They have been paid for in Jesus.

It is more than putting a megaphone on a car and driving through town announcing your sins are forgiven. The comfort comes when this good news is in the context of a loving and caring presence. God comforts, yes, but God calls His people go be his ministers of brining that comfort.

Prepare for the comfort of God. Verses 3-5 speak about preparing a way. The imagery here is a kings visit, like rolling out the red carpet. Only the way is prepared through the wilderness. Hills are leveled and the valleys are filled in. The road is prepared and no obstacles are in the way.

This highway is to be prepared for God’s people to return from captivity. God is about to lead people back. This is indeed a word of comfort.

This passage is quoted by all four of the Gospel writers; Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:2-3, Luke 3:4-6 and John 1:23. The gospel writers understood this passage to be more than Israel returning from captivity. They understood this as John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus ministry. John the Baptist is preparing the way for the greatest comfort of all time which is delivering man from the captivity of sin.

This Isaiah passage on comfort is pointing to the coming of the Messiah. It is looking forward to Jesus Christ. John the Baptist was a great preacher but the significance of his ministry is he pointed others to Christ.

Here in Isaiah is a chapter on comfort. How appropriate that this chapter is announcing the coming Christ. He is our source of comfort. We can certainly take comfort from God’s Word.

We do not always like to but we must face up to the temporary nature of man (verses 5-6). When the flowers come they are so beautiful, but they are gone so quickly. The grass is cut and it dries up and blows away. This describes all of us. We are temporary and our time on earth is fleeting.

What brings comfort to a temporary and fleeting man? It is eternal God. In contrast to our human flesh is God’s Word that is everlasting. The Word of God stands forever. Heaven and earth may pass away but God’s Word remains forever.

What do people want when they are hurting? Do they want the lyrics of the latest pop song? Do they want quotes from a television sitcom? Do they want someone to read the newspaper? They want Psalm 23, John 14 Isaiah 40. They want what God’s Word that gives comfort.

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Responses

  1. Thank you, very insightful and well written


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