My ten month old is teething something crazy right now and she literally can’t bear the moments when I leave the room without her on my hip. There is a part of me (probably bigger than I’d care to admit) that finds it incredibly annoying. I am coming back to her, most likely within moments. The logical side of me says “why can’t she just be patient and trust me?” The experienced side of me says “she is just a baby, and she’s is in pain, and she doesn’t want to be alone in that pain.”
These verses in my recent journey through Psalm 119 have stood out to me:
“My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” – Psalm 119:25
“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” – Psalm 119:50
It struck me today how odd my baby’s behavior feels to me: she’s in pain. I could give her some Tylenol and she would be fine. But when she is in pain, she doesn’t question her pain. She simply calls out to me instead. My presence is her comfort. When I hold her, she ceases crying. She’s not expecting me to take away her pain, she’s simply finding comfort in my presence and being with her in her pain.
I find the same to be true with people. There is a popular video that surfaces every now and then on my social media feed that demonstrates this concept: what people in pain need most is just someone to come and sit with them in their pain.
I find a different expectation with God. I think because He is divinely powerful and knows all things, I limit my expectations of His comfort to be a relief of my pain. And when He doesn’t give me the Tylenol effect, I so often wonder what comfort He has for me at all.
When do we lose what my sweet baby understands so well? At what point have we simply lost the ability to receive comfort purely by Gods presence? I think I have much to learn from my baby in this.
God doesn’t wrap His arms around me physically. But He gives me what He calls His body —- the current physical manifestation of His presence, His church, the people of God. There have been very few seasons in my life where God has not provided at least one person that I can send my “9-1-1” text to in request for prayer, no less find an able, willing and very present physical person to let me cry on their shoulder in my pain.
But on those days where friends are distant, and I feel all alone, Psalm 119 reminds me I have the comfort of Gods Word. It doesn’t seem at first glance like an easy source of comfort. But He has told us (in the Psalm references above) that His words give life — that our comfort in our affliction is His presence mediated through His words. His words are, after all, living and active words – words that literally created our world into existence. If He can create a sun and moon with His words, I ought to be quite confident He can communicate His presence through His words too.
But I struggle with this. Why? Why is there a part of my heart that shudders every time someone reminds me to find my comfort in Gods Word when all I want is relief from my pain?
I have learned there are many reasons for this problem in my heart but one of the main reasons is that I just haven’t listened well enough to it. Because if I was listening, I would be reminded of how the Psalmist felt as he prayed to God, and I would realize I am not alone. “My soul clings to the dust, give me life!” If I was listening, I would hear how Jesus says that “in this life you will have trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33). I would hear God promise me that His love is steadfast, and His mercies are new every morning. Listen for one moment to this great sufferer of pain in Scripture:
“…my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:17-23
This man feels that his soul remembers his pain more than God does. If you’ve never felt that way, I’m sorry to say but I am sure you will at some point. Our world is so full of grief and pain, it’s kind of hard to miss it.
But. God has given us hope. The hope of His coming, and the hope of a world coming without pain, and the hope of knowing His steadfast love in a way where we will never be left unsatisfied again. “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.” If we want to find comfort in Gods word, we must first call His words to mind. We must listen to them.
It’s the equivalent to me holding my baby girl and reminding her as she cries that I am right there with her, that she is not alone, and that I know better than she ever could that her pain won’t last. How much more true is that the message of Gods word to us in our pain? “I’m here. I will never leave you or forsake you. You don’t have to be afraid. Your pain won’t last, and I will be with you through to the end.”
Our pastor said a couple weeks ago to expect comfort in Gods words. (It was a great sermon, listen to it on the August 30th link here:)
I found his words so helpful. If I don’t expect Gods word to comfort me, it won’t. But if I hold out in belief that what He says about His word is true, that He offers us His comfort in His words, then I hold Him to that — much like our Psalmist did in Psalm 119. “My soul clings to the dust – give me life, according to your promise.”
Are you holding God to His word – to His promise to give you life through His word? Or are you limiting the comfort He has for you by expecting some Tylenol for your pain instead? I beg you, ask Him. Demand it – don’t be afraid. The Psalmist said “gimme, gimme life, God.” So ask Him for life! Such a request is grounded in His promise to give it.
My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! – Psalm 119:25