>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. A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”

You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”

See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:1-11

The prophecies given in the first 39 chapters of the book of Isaiah are words of judgment. This prophecy from chapter 40 begins words of comfort for the last one third of the book. But, the comfort for Judah was a long way off.

Jerusalem wouldn’t fall for another 100 years, and then God’s people would be exiled for another 70 years. God instructed Isaiah to begin planting seeds of encouragement. The hard, rocky soils of their lives were being tilled through one-coming adversity. As I mentioned a few days ago, the people of Judah were completely surrounded by the Assyrian Empire (LINK). More consequences and punishments were heading their way. But, in the midst of judgment, God directed Isaiah to tell about the comfort ahead.

God’s work in our lives doesn’t culminate in a dead end. Some of our struggles seem so dark, it’s hard to believe that it’s part of God’s plan. It’s hard to believe that God has anything to do with it. It’s hard to believe that anything will turn out very well. Yet, 170 years before God’s people are released from captivity, God promises His comfort, even though they don’t seem to have a clue about what they are about to face.

What dark thing are you facing today? Whether it was caused by your actions or someone else’s, God can use it to refine your character and demonstrate His comfort and grace in your life.

Joni Erickson Tada has been paralyzed from the neck down for over thirty years. She writes, “The cross is the center of our relationship with Jesus. The cross is where we die. We go there daily. It isn’t easy.

“Normally, we follow Christ anywhere – to a party, as it were, where He changes water into wine, to a sunlit beach where He preaches from a boat. But to the cross? We dig in our heels. The invitation is so frighteningly individual. It’s an invitation to go alone.

“Suffering reduces us to nothing and as Soren Kierkegaard noted, ‘God creates everything out of nothing. And everything which God is to use, he first reduces to nothing.’ To be reduced to nothing is to be dragged to the foot of the cross. It’s a severe mercy.

“When suffering forces us to our knees at the foot of Calvary, we die to self. We cannot kneel there for long without releasing our pride and anger, unclasping our dreams and desires…In exchange, God imparts power and implants new and lasting hope.” From When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty.

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