Editor's note: This is the fourth post in a special Christmas devotional series, focusing on Isaiah 61:1-3. You may also want to read the introduction, "A Front Row Seat to Holiness;" part 1, "What's the 'G' in UGM?"; part 2, "Recovery: a Story of Brokenness and Healing;" and part 3, "Jesus Came to Proclaim Freedom for the Captives."
And provide for those who grieve
By Phil Altmeyer, UGM Executive Director
“To comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning.” Isaiah 61:2-3
“It is easy enough to say a great many beautiful things about God being the God of all comfort; but unless we know what it is to be really and truly comforted ourselves, we might as well talk to the winds. People must read in our lives what they hear in our words, or all our preaching is worse than useless.” (from God of All Comfort by Hannah Whitall Smith)
Here’s a beautiful thing: the men and women coming out of our recovery programs do know what it is “to be really and truly comforted.” Their firsthand experience with the God of all comfort is evident in their lives, and through them, that comfort spreads far beyond the four walls of the Mission.
Sheldon and Dean, former residents of the UGM Men’s Shelter, came to the end of themselves. Sheldon was riding the bus day and night to stay warm. Dean came from the psych ward where he was prescribed eight different medications to manage his anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and violent outbursts. Both men faced the emptiness of everything the world has to offer and in utter desperation cried out to God.
God answered. He led both Sheldon and Dean, by different routes, to the Union Gospel Mission, and here, through the healing environment provided by a caring community, God lavished comfort upon them. They found food, shelter, clothing, showers and medical care. They found acceptance and a place to belong. They found people willing to listen and counselors with words of wisdom. They found hope that life could be something more than it had always been. Most importantly, they found their new identity in Christ.
Here’s how Sheldon described the comfort: “I found out there were people that actually loved me and cared about me. I’ve never had that my whole life.”
When Sheldon finished the UGM Recovery program, he started looking for ways to comfort others with the comfort he has been given: “God has given me purpose and significance in my life, not to hoard for myself, but to share with others – to show them the same grace and love and compassion that He’s shown me. That’s my duty, to be as Christ-like as possible.”
Think about how the comfort received is being multiplied over and over as our guests go out into the world and seek to share what they have experienced.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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 receive from God,” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
Worth thinking about: How has God comforted you? How are you extending that comfort to others?
Take Action: Do you know someone who has suffered a loss this past year? Someone for whom this Christmas season might be hard because a loved one won’t be there for the first time? Say their name aloud. Ask God how you might be a comfort to them.
Download the free Advent devotional below for more on Isaiah 61:1-3 and how it applies to your life today.