Healing Line

Healing Line

Comforting Love

by Nancy Stafford
Jul/Aug/Sep 2012

I so desperately need to be reminded of God's love for me. I bet you do, too.

My own quest to know the Father's love is what compelled me to write my book The Wonder of His Love: A Journey into the Heart of God. The deeper I journeyed the more I discovered amazing facets of God's love that I had never recognized — His Lavishing and Transforming Love, yes, but also His Shadowed and Agonizing Love. God expressing His love and grace and healing in surprising ways that I never had eyes to see before. This piece, Comforting Love, is just one of the many aspects of God's love I'm discovering.

So come with me. Let's crack open our hearts and venture deeper into the mystery of His love. Let's journey together into the heart of God.

I pray, as Paul prayed for the church at Ephesus, that you will grasp how "wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ" (Eph 3:18).

I pray that God will meet you in deep and intimate ways as He reveals to you how loved, cherished, and accepted you are in Him. I so want you to know that the God of the universe is wild about you, enthralled with you, completely consumed with love for you!

"As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you." — Isaiah 66:13

When I was little, In the Garden was my mom's favorite hymn. Curled up in her lap, my head squooshed into her pillow–soft chest, I would rock with her in the brown nubby Ethan Allen rocker with the box pleat ruffle and the tiny creak in the spring.

Through earaches, scraped knees, and monsters under my bed, through schoolmate snubs, broken hearts, and piano recital fiascoes, this was my balm. We would rock together in the darkened living room, bathed in just a hint of a bluish light flickering from the TV room where Daddy was watching the Ed Sullivan Show. I don't remember if he even turned down the volume, but I couldn't have heard it anyway.

All I heard was her. Singing to me. And singing to Jesus.

Mom wasn't a good singer. But I didn't know that. I loved her voice, with its deep register, little rasp, and slight vibrato. But mostly I loved the softness and feel of her voice, and the intimacy it produced as the sound rumbled from her chest. I didn't so much hear her as feel her; it wasn't how her voice sounded, but how it felt that soothed and assured, healed and relaxed me.

Mom rocked me and sang that song until I was far too old for that kind of thing. When my toes touched the ground, I folded my long legs into her lap as far as possible, and when they got too long for that, I started using my own feet to keep us rocking. Then one day I realized that her strained singing and labored breathing wasn't from tender emotions, but from me crushing her lungs into her rib cage, squeezing the air right out of her. Both sad, we retired our ritual. But during all those years, rocking in Mom's lap, wrapped in her arms and nestled into her chest, I learned what God's love and comfort feels like.

I learned about "the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God" (2 Corinthians 1:3–4). I sensed the peace and power of the God who turns our "mourning into gladness" and gives us "comfort and joy instead of sorrow" (Jeremiah 31:13). And as I rocked in Mom's lap, I felt the blessing of Moses: "Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders" (Deuteronomy 33:12).

Because I'd come to know the Father of compassion who comforts us in all our troubles, I found that I could hold a weeping woman in my arms after her own miscarriage too. Because I'd come to know the God who turns our mourning into gladness, I sensed His peace and power when my dad — and recently my precious mom — went home to heaven. Because as a child I had felt the blessing of Moses, I knew I could experience confidence and rest when the security of our jobs was yanked away, our finances are strained, and our health is challenged. Because I'd come to know the God of all comfort, I continue to experience His comfort and security during times of uncertainty, failure, loss, and disappointment.

And so can you. In all of our devastations and trials God ministers comfort and tenderness to us that we can now minister to others — because we've "been there." We've become, as Henry Nouwen call us, "wounded healers." We have something to give. We can dispense God's grace and healing through the scars that were once our own wounds. "We can comfort…with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." — 2 Corinthians 1:3–4

Now, as an adult, I understand why "In the Garden" was Mom's favorite hymn. It has become mine, too. I had always thought those moments in her lap, rocking and singing, were just for me. Yes, certainly, they were Mom's gifts to me, of her time and her life, but I now believe that she was stealing precious moments for herself as well.

Who can know what Mom prayed for her daughter as she rocked her and stroked her back? Did she ever cry out, I'm so tired…I've given all I can give today. Just help her sleep, Lord! Did she ever ask, What about me? Ever tell the Lord, I love my family, but what about my dreams, my talents, my hopes? Is this all You want me to do with all You've given me? Did this strong, confident woman ever feel helpless to dress the wounds of her little one? Did she shed tears over my physical and emotional pain? Did she cry out to God for wisdom, patience, and love in rearing her child?

Whatever my mom's prayers were, I believe they were beautiful encounters between her and her Beloved. I imagine that as Mom rocked me and prayed for me, prayed for herself and for the grace to raise me, God met her in that garden…and walked with her, talked with her, and assured her she was His own. As she soothed her child, Love soothed His.

"Come away," He whispers to us…and draws us into quiet places where we can walk with Him and talk with Him and simply be with Him. He meets us in the garden and comforts us there with His love. He pulls us onto His lap, rocks us in His arms, and sings tenderly over us.

And we never get too old for this. Father, You surround me with Your comfort and overwhelm me with Your tenderness. Thank You for Your gentle love, which calms, soothes, and reassures me. I know that whatever happens in my life, I can rest in the shelter of Your loving arms.

Now, Lord, please use me to comfort others. Help me to be sensitive to those around me who need Your consoling touch. Help me reach out to them with the same loving comfort I have received from You. Amen.

Excerpt from: The Wonder of His Love: A Journey into the Heart of God ©2004 Multnomah by Nancy Stafford

Nancy Stafford Nancy Stafford is an actor, speaker and author of several books. Jul/Aug/Sep 2012