Cared For, Covered and Comforted
by Mary Napier on May 01, 2020
Several decades ago I found myself in a anxious place, in need of comfort. I had had a seriously scary diagnosis, long daily commutes for treatment, and three small children at home. I had people watching my kids, making meals and a supportive husband. Still, I would reach the end of the day exhausted and full of fear about what the future may bring. Nothing I could do on my own seemed to allay the anxiety. Lying in bed, unable to sleep, with all sorts of imagined terrors racing around in my head, I prayed for sleep. As it often happens to me in a desparate place of prayer, wise words from what I can only describe as "not me" popped into my head – "Relax. Let Me tuck you in at night." I closed my eyes, and saw myself in a luxurious bed of white silk sheets, a silk comforter trimmed with exquisite lace. (I'm a dark colored cotton/polyester type myself...) I felt a peace come over me and I was soon asleep. I spent the next few months asking God to "tuck me in" every night, always finding peace and comfort where I had previously found fear and anxiety. Sometimes the sheets changed. One night, when I was physically in pain, I saw dark blue plaid flannel sheets and comforter, still luxuriously trimmed with lace and ribbon, and though not actually on my bed, I can still remember how soft and warm they felt and how God's peace and comfort was entwined in them. Today, I can still recall how cared for, covered and comforted I felt at night during that scary time.
Some months later, I came across this amazing description of the Holy Spirit as Comforter. (Emphasis mine.):
"Comforter" means one who soothes in a time of pain or grief -- one who eases pain and sorrow, brings relief, consoles and encourages. But I like this definition from the Greek: "One who lays you down on a warm bed of safety." During the cold, dark night of your soul, He lays you down on the soft bed of His comfort, soothing you with His tender hand. -From David Wilkerson's newletter, You Have a Comforter, January 20, 1992
When Adam and Eve's easy walk with God in the garden disintegrated due to their disobedience, they had their own set of fears and anxiety to deal with. They discovered they were naked – exposed, vulnerable, covered with uncertainty and facing the unknown. Their solution? Sew some fig leaves together and try to cover up their exposure, an inadequate solution to a monumental problem. They soon saw they'd lost the intimate walk with their Creator and could no longer stay in the garden. What terrors were racing around in their heads we can only imagine.
But God did not leave them in their nakedness and all the baggage that came with their sin. He explains to them the consquences of their disobedience, and then, we are told in Genesis:
...the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. (vs.21)
Imagine being clothed in garments made by the hand of the Lord God. Perhaps they were warm and comforting mink coats, or perhaps PETA's dream of vegan simulated-leather clothing. Imagine being in a place of shame, anxiety and uncertainty, and having the God who walked with you in the garden, whom you had disobeyed, covering you with amazing garments made by His own hand, lovingly suited for the life outside the garden. He cares for you and knows what you need. He sees the futility of the flimsy fig leaf loincloths. He provides garments for the difficult walk ahead, the walk outside the garden, into a scary unfamiliar world.
Thanks to the coronavirus, we all now find ourselves in a place similar to Adam and Eve, facing a scary unfamiliar new world outside our familar garden. Yes, there are things we can do – wash our hands for as long as it takes to recite the Lord's Prayer, stay in as much as possible and when we can't, social distance ourselves, and shelter in place. But these things are only fig leaves, flimsy protection at best. As we face this present crisis, we might be inclined to say at least we don't have the baggage of nakedness and the shame of the disobedience of our first parents. However, in truth, we are seeing the effects of their sin and the resulting fallen world, a world where diseases such as COVID-19 can make us feel we have been turned out of our familiar garden. But God does not leave us uncared for, uncovered or uncomforted in the midst of it. He is the same God He was before we ever heard of the coronavirus. His Spirit still longs to lay us down in a warm, soft bed of safety and comfort, soothing us with His tender hand. When we, in our present anxiety, turn to Him for comfort, He makes for us, by His own hand, the spiritual, emotional and physical covering we need to walk with Him in this strange new place. And it's so much better than fig leaves...
Mary Napier is a long time member of TCC and writes semi-regularly on her own blog, The Angle.