Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God. — Isaiah 40:1
Suffering, in all its various forms, is a universal human experience. While there often isn’t an answer to the question why suffering exists, there are many answers to how we can respond to the suffering of others. Our devotions explore how God comforts us, and how we can help Israel’s most vulnerable and comfort others in times of suffering.
I love it when technology and social media come together for a good purpose. A few months ago, a photo with an inspiring message behind it went viral. The picture was of three young men, all employees of the Dutch Bros. Coffee drive-thru in Vancouver, Canada, holding hands with a woman in a car with heads bent in prayer. The picture was taken and posted by the customer behind the woman in the car.
The story behind the photo is that the three workers saw the woman in tears and found out that her husband had passed away the night before. The young men stopped everything to comfort the woman and pray with her. Once the story went viral and news stations picked it up, Pierce Dunn who was part of the impromptu “prayer team” that day said, “If every single person . . . did an act of kindness and had a smile on their face every single day, the world would be a completely different place.”
In the book of Isaiah we read, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” The prophet was speaking specifically about Jerusalem, but I believe this directive applies to all of God’s people. When we see someone in pain, God directs us to provide them with comfort. This is how we serve God and share His love with others.
A story is told about a famous rabbi who lived in the 18th century and who was traveling by train. The rabbi was immersed in Bible study in the far end of a railroad sleeping car. In the adjacent room, his grandson, who would also grow up to be a prominent rabbi, was studying Torah as well. Two rooms over, there was a sleeping baby. Suddenly, the baby began to cry.
The great rabbi heard the baby’s cries and stopped his studying so that he could go over and sooth the baby back to sleep. After he had gotten the baby quiet, he passed by his grandson while on his way back to his own room. He admonished his grandson that if one studies the Torah yet fails to hear a baby’s cries, something is wrong with his learning. The rabbi was teaching his grandson that nothing was more important than hearing and tending to the cries of another human being.
Along the same lines, according to Jewish law, there must be windows in a synagogue. This is because as we pray to God, we must be able to “see” the world – to see the suffering of others and to pray for them.
What a great reminder that we should never be so busy that we miss another person’s cry or suffering. Let us be extra vigilant today; if we see someone who is hurting, like those young men at the Dutch Bros. drive-thru, let us be the ones to comfort them.