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Thinking of God with Larry Sheehy: Our God comforts us
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Larry Sheehy - photo by Special

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction....”
    — The apostle Paul, II Corinthians 1:3–4

    Everyone experiences troubles of one sort or another. Just as the sun and rain fall on the righteous and unrighteous (Matthew 5:45), troubles come to both groups as well. In fact, the Bible sometimes seems to suggest that troubles come to the righteous more than to the ungodly. Job asked, “Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? Their offspring are established in their presence, and their descendants before their eyes” (21:7-8). Asaph, the author of Psalm 73, was confused by the same question — but when he sought God, he realized that the righteous will be blessed in the end over the unrighteous.
    Children of God may sometimes wonder why God doesn’t help us more when troubles come. In reality, the Bible portrays God as one who is totally conscious of our needs, as well as what is best for us in every circumstance. God is consistently pictured in Scripture as a caring father who lovingly comforts his children in good times and bad.
    “Comfort, comfort my people” was the message God spoke to the Israelites through Isaiah the prophet (40:1). The ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise was to be the coming of the Christ, the Messiah, the savior of Israel and the world. This is made plain by comparing Isaiah 40:2–5 with Matthew 3:3.
    The promise God gave Isaiah for the people of Jerusalem was a strange one, in view of the Jews’ constant rebelliousness against God. But it was clear evidence of his love for his covenant people, the descendants of Abraham. God’s intentions for his people were for their good rather than for evil.
    As a shepherd, David saw in God one who cared for him as David cared for his father’s sheep: “Even though I walk the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4).
    Matthew tells us that Jesus saw the crowds who followed him as sheep without a shepherd, and was compassionate (9:36). There is little doubt that he saw them in this light many times as he traveled the length and breadth of his homeland. His compassionate view is further emphasized in Matthew 18:12–14 where he tells a story about a shepherd who left 99 of his sheep in a safe place while he went to find the single member of his flock that was lost and in danger.
    Further, the parable of the prodigal (“wasteful”) son (Luke 15) shows God’s care for those willing to come to him. God loves everyone, but he has a special place in his heart for his spiritual children. The elder brother in the story had never been without his father’s love, although he didn’t appreciate it.
    Finally, note representative passages from Psalm 119: “Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life” (119:49–50), and “Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant” (119:76).
    God comforts us because of his love for us. The question we must continually ask is, “How will we respond to his love?”

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