HOW DOES GOD COMFORT?
Octavius Winslow (1808-1878)
How does God comfort those who are cast down? His method is various. He adapts the comfort to the sorrow. He first writes the sentence of death upon all comfort outside of Himself. If you have been accustomed to scrutinize narrowly God’s way of dealing with you, you will often have marked this peculiar feature—that before He has unsealed the fountain, He has cut off the spring. In other words, He has suspended all human channels of comfort, preparatory to the fulfillment of His own exceeding great and precious promise, “I, even I, am he that comforts you.” It was thus He dealt with His Church of old. “Therefore, behold, I will allure83 her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her” (Hos 2:14). In that wilderness, as a “woman of a sorrowful spirit,” she is brought: in that wilderness she is separated from her companions; yet in that dreary, lonely wilderness the God of all comfort speaks to her heart…
This is one way by which God comforts the disconsolate. Overlook it not. It may be painful, humiliating, and trying to faith; but the issue, like all the conduct of our Heavenly Father, will be most blessed and holy. Is He now, in your case, writing the sentence of death upon all creature comfort? Does no eye pity you, no heart feel for you, no tongue address you, and is no hand outstretched to rescue you? Look now for God! For He is on the way, in the time of the creature’s failure, Himself to comfort you.
By sealing a sense of pardon upon the conscience, God comforts the disconsolate. There is no comfort equal to this. As our deepest sorrow flows from a sense of sin, so our deepest joy springs from a sense of its forgiveness. What comfort can there be where this is lacking? What sorrow where this is felt? “When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?” (Job 34:29). This was the comfort which God commanded the prophet to speak to His spiritual Jerusalem: “Say unto her, that her sins are forgiven.” And this is the message which the Lord sends to His whole Church. This comfort have all His saints. Your sins, O believer, are forgiven. “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins,” says God (Isa 44:22). You are not called upon to believe that God will pardon, but that He has pardoned you. Forgiveness is a past act; the sense of it written upon the conscience is a present one. “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb 10:14), has forever put away their sins.
Faith in the blood of Jesus brings the soul into the possession of a present forgiveness. And when God the Holy Spirit thus imprints a sense of pardoned sin upon the troubled conscience, all other sorrows in comparison dwindle into insignificance. In all kinds of trouble, it is not the ingredients that God puts into the cup that so much afflict us, as the ingredients of our distempered84 passions mingled with them. The sting and the core of them all is sin: whenthat is not only pardoned, but in a measure healed, and the proud flesh eaten out, then a healthy soul will bearanything. After repentance, that trouble which before was a correction, becomes now a trial and exercise oF grace….We should not be cast down so much about outward troubles, as about that sin that both procures them and envenoms85 them. We see by experience, where conscience is once set at liberty, how cheerfully men will go under any burden: therefore labor to keep out sin, and then let come what will come.
Thus, beloved, God comforts His conscience-troubled people. He loves so to speak to their hearts! Is it any delight to Him to see you carrying your burden of conscious sin day after day and week after week? Ah, no! He has procured the means of your pardon at a great price—nothing less than the sacrifice of His beloved Son—and will not the same love which procured your forgiveness, speak it to your heart? Oh yes, the sun in the heavens pours not forth its light more freely, light itself speeds not more rapidly…than the pardon of sin flows from the heart of God to the humble and the contrite mourner. Is sin your trouble? Does conscious guilt cast you down? Look up, disconsolate soul! There is forgiveness with God. It is in His heart to pardon you. Repair to His feet, go to God’s confessional, and over the head of the atoning sacrifice acknowledge your transgression, and He will forgive the iniquity of your sin.