When I was about 24-years-old, my brothers and sisters and I spent about 9 months watching our mother die from colon cancer. On one of her last days, my brother Donald and I sat together quietly in her hospital room one long afternoon while she slept. Neither of us had said anything for the longest time when I saw Don reach into his pocket and pull out one of his business cards and a pen. He turned the card over, wrote something on it, and handed it to me. He had written, "And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me," from the Beatles' song Let it Be. It comforted him to write it, and it comforted me to read it.
It seems there is always a need for comfort in our lives, at least there
always is in mine. No one has a perfect, stress-free life. We have
lovely stress-free, joy-bringing, bliss-filled moments, but they are all too
fleeting to be cherished for anything more than a minute and a memory.
Yet there is still a light that
shines on us. God used Jeremiah to say
it in a different way, one that never fails to bring me comfort. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope
and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11
NIV). I can’t tell you how many times I have leaned on Jeremiah. I only know one thing about the future: God is already there. And if God is there, I can go there, too.
One of the most comforting things I ever heard came to me
as sort of a second-hand story. I know
the person who told me the story had no idea then that it would mean so much to
me since she told it to me, about 12 or 13 years ago. I was working part-time at a different
college than the one I work at now. My
boss was a happy, bright young Christian woman.
One day she received word that the husband of a good friend about her
age or a little older had died unexpectedly.
Michelle, my boss, was distraught, because while Michelle’s friend was a
Christian, she knew the husband was not.
Michelle went to the funeral with a heavy heart and afterwards broke down in front
of her friend, the new widow. She told
her friend how upset she was and why.
Her friend took her by the shoulders (maybe figuratively) and firmly said,
“Now stop it, Michelle, or you’re going to block the blessing.”
“Don’t block the blessing” is now something I say to myself
whenever something awful happens, or whenever I think something awful is about
to happen (which as we all know can be worse than the real awful thing actually happening). It makes me remember to acknowledge God’s
presence in the awfulness, because it is God’s presence that gives me hope –
It is the blessing of God's comforting Presence always and everywhere that keeps us from becoming totally hopeless when external forces try to rob us of peace and comfort; of health and wholeness. It is the blessing of God's comforting Presence, the Light that shines on us even when it is cloudy, that helps us take that next step and then the next one, and the next, knowing he is with us however rocky the road.
So I thank you, God, for Donald, for Jeremiah, for Michelle and
Michelle’s friend, and thank you God for Paul McCartney. Thank you most of all for your Son, the
source of all comfort. “May our Lord
Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us
eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and
word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV)