Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 216: Isaiah 4-6; Psalm 27; I Thessalonians 4

The Consolation of God
We like to think that the consolation of God is, well, something akin to comfort. It should feel like a warm, welcoming homecoming after a journey through a cold, wet day. It should feel like a warm cup of coffee/tea/cocoa on a chilly morning. It should feel like a cool hand on a fevered brow. It should smell like "puppy-breath." It should taste like Sunday dinner. It should sound like quiet. The consolation of God should be a lot of things.

What is it, really?

It is respite from enemies, even if only just for a moment before the fray resumes. It is the quiet after the storm...giving us time to recover and clean up the mess the wind left behind. It is the calm after the passing of a loved one...that soft moment when grief takes hold, but before loss sets in. It is the reminder that life is changed, not ended when death does come...even while we mourn and weep. It is a host of things, and while most of these moments tender no small degree of consolation I confess that few offer "comfort" in the way I noted above.

We pray for God's protection, but sometimes we forget that "God with us" does not mean that we will suddenly be "OK" when things are going badly around us. The consolation of God is there for us as a reminder that no matter how bad it gets...and it does get pretty bad from time to time...God will see us through that rough time. We may not desire the particular outcome, but even then God is with us.

That is a hard lesson to learn in life. It takes a lot of  loss and pain to absorb, and a heck of a lot of faith to endure...but on the other side of that journey lie some remarkable gifts prepared for us by a loving God who does not so much promise to preserve us from peril. Rather, God commits to being with us through it.

Isaiah receives the words he needs and the blessings required to deliver his Lord's words of judgment to the people...and also is shown that exile (in God's economy) is never forever. The Psalmist knows the pain and unimaginable stress of real war...and experiences God as one who lifts him up in the face of his enemies. The battle is still there, raging around him; still, he knows an inner calm. Paul is less subtle than all that...he advises the people of God in Thessalonica to live lives in the utter confidence that God is with them. Focus, he says, on the day to day and let the Christ tend to eternity. Work, play, love, struggle, even mourn...all of it is a precursor to the glory that is already being made manifest.

The consolation of God? Not what we expect...but truly in the end, what we need.

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