I will be doing some conference calls about encouragement and faith in a pandemic for the Northeast Delta Human Services Authority. This is the script and audio for the first one. These can also be accessed on their YouTube channel HERE. – John
The virus pandemic with which we are living has created many difficulties and anxieties for us. We talk a lot about the outward effects of the virus: wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing. The news presents many issues related to the virus – and some of it is scary. But today I want to think about our inner life – the anxiety, fear, discomfort, and struggle we have within. God is called the God of all Comfort in the Bible. I want us to spend our time today thinking about the comfort that comes from God in our most difficult struggles. We will read Scriptures and pray together for a few minutes and seek God’s comfort in our own lives. You are invited to follow along in your Bible if you wish.
When I think about God’s comfort, I think about the Psalms. The first one that comes to mind is the Shepherd Psalm, Psalm 23. You may know this by heart.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.Psalm 23, NKJV
This passage reminds us that God is our Great Shepherd, and we are His sheep.
He provides for us.
He leads us to quiet places that restore our soul.
He points us in the right paths for the decisions we make in life.
He removes fear by providing comfort.
He gives us hope for eternal life beyond our struggles.
I think this might be a great passage to read every day – to remember how much of a comfort God really is.
There are many verses in the Psalms that speak of God’s Comfort towards us.
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.Psalm 91:1-2, NLT
God is our Shelter and our Refuge – A Place of Safety.
Place your trust in Him. He will always be by our side when we walk through the most difficult days.
The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. 14 For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. 15 Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. 16 The wind blows, and we are gone— as though we had never been here. 17 But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him….Psalm 103:13-17a, NLT
I find great comfort to realize that God knows how weak we are. Have you made some bad decisions in trying to deal with your stress and anxiety? Have you found it difficult to focus? Have you found it difficult to concentrate? Have you given in to fear and anxiety? You’re not alone. First, there are many of us who are struggling. Second, God is there – the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him.
O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.Psalm 139:1-10, NLT
These are just some of the many Psalms that declare that God knows us, He sees us, He knows every tear, He understands the unrest and struggle that we face. He is “Before us” and He “follows us” – there is no step you can take without God. He is here to guide and strengthen and support us.
There is a chapter in the New Testament I’d like to read a few verses from. It is a great chapter of comfort and inspiration. In the book of Romans, chapter 8 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. One Bible teacher said that Romans 8 starts with ‘no condemnation’ and ends with ‘no separation’ and in the middle shouts ‘glory’! I want to point out three verses in Romans 8 that should bring us comfort from God:
Romans 8:18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
We are suffering – for many in hospitals they are suffering in the struggle to stay alive. But most of us are suffering in our own hearts and minds as we face the losses and challenges of living in a pandemic. Whatever we suffer, it is nothing in comparison to what God our great Comforter has in store for us!
Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
This verse is sometimes read to say that God causes everything. You may believe that. I believe it says that God takes everything that happens and works a way for it to turn out good – for those who love Him. Has some good come out of this coronavirus? Maybe so – but in the future I think we will look back and see some good things we can’t see right now. For today we believe that God can take this virus and our experience and make something good out of it for His purpose.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39, NLT
We can put the coronavirus in this category – it cannot separate us from God. Even if we are in isolation – God is still with us. Even if you are in your home afraid to get out – God is still with you. Even if you are in a hospital room, no family can come to you – God is still with you. Even if you are feeling alone and afraid – God is still with you. Nothing you can name can separate you from the love of God – revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We have listened to some Psalms and to some words from Apostle Paul in Romans – we should listen to some words from Jesus.
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.John 14:1-6, NLT
So often the only place I hear this verse is at a funeral. It is certainly appropriate for that purpose – but I think this is a verse to help us live out our days in the promise of Jesus. In a pandemic world…hear the words of Jesus speak to your heart.
Don’t let your hearts be troubled – we have been troubled over what we are experiencing. But let’s turn our heart toward these words of Jesus and let them bring healing and hope into our lives.
Trust in God, and trust also in me – one thing I’ve learned in this pandemic is that the issues of life are bigger than me. I can’t solve it all on my own. I need the loving arms and the truth of a God in whom I can trust. Give your life to God – that’s the only way we can find the hope we need.
I am going to prepare a place for you – Hear how personal this message is. Jesus cares about you and He wants to live with you forever. He is preparing a forever home for you because He wants to live with you for eternity.
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” If you’re wondering how to find your way to God, hear the words of His son – He is the way, the truth and the life. Read and follow the teachings of Jesus and you will find your way. If you have always followed the Lord, then you know, don’t you … this is where we find real life. In the arms of Jesus.
God tells us of his comfort in the Psalms, He reminds us of His presence in Romans, and He gives us ultimate comfort in the words of Jesus. Before we end this call, I’d like to read one more passage – this time from
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NLT
God is the source of all of our comfort. God wants us to comfort others. If you’ve been struggling with this pandemic and how it’s changed our lives I will encourage you in two ways today. Receive the comfort that comes only from God. Find ways to offer comfort to others – letting God work through you to help them.