I was washing bottles in my kitchen this afternoon while attempting adult conversation with my dear friend when I heard the glass shatter. I looked over to see Olive standing on pieces of my broken vase- the vase I’d told her not to play with. While Brett began removing the glass out of her feet and legs, I callously grabbed the broom. Once I saw Olive was fine, I fully morphed into Captain Anti-Sympathy. Externally, I told Olive how sorry I was that she was scared, but really I wanted to yell, “I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT!” It’s hard to be compassionate when your pragmatic prophecies are ignored.
As I swept up glass, I thought about all the things my kids had broken in the past 6 years. I know better than to have anything that isn’t Fisher Price in my house. If it’s pretty and I like it, I won’t buy it. I’ll just go visit it at the store until some other naïve parent buys it under the arrogant assumption that it won’t shatter on their dining room floor.
I normally love comforting my kids. I love holding their faces, dispensing band-aids and hugs and hope. But it can be hard when their pain is a direct result of an act of disobedience.
How does God do it? How does God respond with such consistent patience and grace and love? And it’s never a patronizing love. It’s not a loving-you-so-you’ll-change love. It’s sincere. Unadulterated. Jarring. Awakening.
We’d be asleep in regret were it not for this gracious love.
It’s easy to be comfortable with a love that reaches out and holds us when we’ve fallen down and skinned our knees. It’s understandable that God extends love when our souls are bruised from the difficulties of existing in a broken world. We get wounded. We lose friends. We get our hearts broken.
And it makes sense that God would comfort us when we’re suddenly abandoned or when we’re inexplicably hospitalized or when we lose our job for no substantial reason.
But it’s harder to take comfort when our pain may be a little bit our fault.
It’s harder to take comfort when we’re crushed because of our own hatred or infidelity or long-festering anger. It’s hard to receive love when our stubbornness or self-indulgence or addictive behaviors led us to a failure or loss.
But in the face of our failure, God speaks a language of kindness and concern.
The God of all comfort does an annoyingly good job not yelling, “I told you not to do that!”
The God of all comfort chooses to show compassion on whom he chooses.
And, apparently, God chooses to comfort in the face of all our afflictions (2 Corinthians 1:3). The ones in which you’re innocent. The ones in which you’re guilty.
God extends comfort when you’re hit by a bus or when you’re driving the bus that hits someone else. God offers compassion when you’re lied to or when you’re the one who lies.
God’s love isn’t about us—it doesn’t hinge on our response or our efforts or how well we behave. Love shapes our hearts into the image of Christ by bringing us face to face with the grace of an incarnate God.
There’s nothing holy about rejecting comfort from God because you don’t deserve it. How arrogant of us to refuse love—as if we know better than God. As if we see the situation better than God—as if there are times we DO deserve it! When we refuse God’s grace, we make grace about us. When we refuse God’s love, we treat God as a delusional grandpa who likes us but who doesn’t see us for who we really are.
But the God of all comfort opens arms of mercy, not blindly, not naively, not to please you, but because love is who God is.
And God doesn’t grit his teeth and reach for empty compassionate words—God's heart is compassion. Even when we break his favorite things after he’s asked us not to.
Embrace a grace that’s bigger than you or your failures. Rest on a compassion that has nothing to do with whether or not you’ve earned it. And wade in this love that drowns our best efforts and exposes our need for mercy.