Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
2  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and proclaim to her
    that her hard service has been completed,
    that her sin has been paid for,
    that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.
3  A voice of one calling:
   “In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
    make straight in the wilderness
    a highway for our God.
4  Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
    the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
5  And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all mankind together will see it.
    For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
6  A voice says, “Cry out.”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
    “All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
    Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:1-5)
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The first few months of a school year can be very difficult for a teacher. The excitement that comes from the first day of school eventually evaporates into a monotony of days that bleed into each other. Each day has its share of trials as teachers get to know students, each with her or his own strengths and weaknesses. Teachers also need to establish a relationship with parents, and each of them have strengths and weaknesses as well. 

By October a teacher can sometimes be feeling overwhelmed and unsure whether she or he can really accomplish anything. The problems seem to overshadow the strengths and there isn’t anyone in the world that can know what is going on.

But then teachers gather together during the months of September or October in conferences all over the nation, and suddenly they realize something - they aren’t alone. They aren’t the only one to experience these kinds of problems. Teachers converse about the issues of the classroom and gain understanding from other knowledgeable teachers. Others have dealt with very similar problems and emerged better from them. It feels like a very big comfort upon the soul.

When dealing with great adversity, sometimes it’s easy for us to think that we are dealing with these issues alone. No one else could possibly realize the sin that is plaguing us, the conflict that is constantly reappearing, or the pain that doesn’t allow us to sleep. 

The burden certainly seemed impossible for the Jews in Isaiah’s time. Their country was constantly being attacked by neighboring nations and eventually the entire nation of Israel was taken away by the Assyrian army, never to return. What other nation suffered as much as they? Who else could understand the trials and tribulations that they had to endure? 

God speaks to them through Isaiah, and the words aren’t what you might think. Instead of, “It serves you right for all the times you turned your back on me,” it’s words of comfort. Not comfort that they would eventually be rescued, but comfort that the sufferings that they dealt with would soon be taken from them. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2).

The pains of this earth would be over, but it would not be through the acts of the Jews themselves. While they must have felt that their suffering couldn’t be matched, God continues and tells them that “the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together (Isaiah 40:5). Their struggle was their Savior’s struggle. They weren’t alone in their tribulation!

We can feel at times like we are alone in our trials. Take these words to heart. Not only are they a comfort to us, but they are also a triumphant prophecy that we are able to see fulfilled in the works of Jesus Christ. We don’t have to shut our eyes and assume the worst is going to happen. We look to the cross and see the best thing possible: someone who took our pains and sorrows on himself. 

What do we do now that those troubles are off our shoulders? We spread that message of comfort to others, of course! Whether that’s through our offerings, our participation in church groups, or our service in God’s mission field, his message of comfort propels others to joyfully thank the Lord that “the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

Heavenly Father, 
When we struggle with troubles in our lives, provide us messages of comfort, knowing that you have taken our troubles and we have nothing to fear. Amen.

 

By Claire Natsis