Comfort, comfort my people, says your God … (Isaiah 40:1)
First, I am happy to report that today has been a better day than yesterday. It’s nice.
The last year and a half has brought me a lot of opportunities to not only seek out comfort, but to think about God’s comfort and what it means and looks like. Some days I feel like I am surrounded by comfort — I have a great conversation with a friend, I spend a relaxing afternoon with my family, or I while away a cozy evening watching Discovery Channel shows with Steve. I feel replenished and restored by my yoga practice, I have a challenging and exhausting run, or the right Scripture passage catches my eye. Sometimes also I find that what I really need is to knit, or to make some macaroni and cheese or a bowl of popcorn, or take a hot bath while reading a magazine. These days, perusing baby books, looking at the tiny little clothes we’ve bought him, and feeling him kick and roll make my grief seem easier to bear too. See what I mean? When you look at it that way, it seems like no matter how crappy the day has been, there’s always something that can fix it up and make it better.
An afternoon nap with a kitty is another way to feel restored.
But days like yesterday happen too, when no matter what I do for myself, the grief-to-peace ratio is skewed in the opposite direction and nothing can take my mind off it. I shut off mentally and just wait for it to pass. What I want, in times like this, is to find some way to make it better. I forget one of the fundamental truths of grief: there is no way to truly make it better. The above things all help, but deep down what I am really seeking is for the source of my grief to be taken away — and that can never happen, not until Revelation 21:4 really does come true.
Learning to live within the grief process is strange and unpleasant. Sometimes it is not as hard as it is at other times, but it is never, ever easy.
So since nothing this side of Heaven will truly comfort us, it begs the question of whether seeking out that comfort is a pointless exercise. I think it isn’t: the Bible is littered with references to the word, and Jeremiah 8:18 calls God “my Comforter in sorrow”. Finding earthly ways to ease my pain isn’t wrong or unhelpful, but seeking God first for comfort never lets me down. Even though reading and rereading favorite Scripture passages or meditating on the lyrics to certain hymns might actually make me feel the grief and sorrow even more acutely in the moment, I wind up feeling more like that grief and sorrow has been purged from my system, like they are toxins my body is slowly trying to release. Sometimes, to me, God’s comfort can seem like it’s just making me feel worse — but it’s not. The tears and emotional exhaustion I experience are more like — maybe more like physical therapy or having a bone set, where the pain in the moment gives way to increased strength and endurance in the future. And for me, that strength and endurance results in the peace that passes understanding — which is my goal in life, moreso than any limited, short-lived human comfort.
So for today, I am seeking Him first. Remembering Philippians 4:6, I will not be anxious in anything, but I will lean on Him and He will carry me through.