After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
– Revelation 7:9-14 [ESV]
Your daughter falls and skins her knee. She runs to you for comfort. You kiss her knee, put on some salve, a bandaid perhaps, and send her back on her way. Soon she’s forgotten all about it.
Your son breaks up with his high school sweetheart. He is heartbroken. You spend time with him over a Coke and listen. You tell him of how you dealt with that when you were his age. You listen. You tell him he’ll probably meet three or four more girls before he meets the right one. Hope begins to return to his eyes, replacing the held-back tears.
You sister suffers from cancer – a second occurrence after a five year absence – and this time the cancer wins. She dies and you feel the loss more strongly than you thought you would. You turn to God for comfort. His word gives you hope. You think of Jesus and the resurrection. You remember that God is good and his steadfast love never fails. The promise of eternal life lets you breathe again.
All those are difficult situations, and opportunities for the milk of human kindness and the balm of Gilead to be poured into the cracks and crevices of the pain and loss. In the throes of such pain and loss comfort of that kind is most welcome.
How much greater relief and comfort must be that which the Lamb provides to those who have suffered for the sake of his name. The tales of brutal torment visited upon the early followers of Jesus are beyond imagination. The chronicles of their suffering and torture make me shake my head this very day. What evil lurks in the hearts of men!
But what kindness, love, mercy, and grace informs the heart of God! We’re all born in sin. We’ve all fallen short of God’s glory. We all need a Savior. Those who have given their lives for the sake of the Gospel, however are given special comfort by the Lamb of God himself. He wipes the tears from their eyes. I wonder if those tears include even tears of despair of his grace. No matter, his grace reaches across our despair and whatever suffering and pain we have experienced.
From skinned knees to cancer’s cruel injury to the worst unimaginable injustice, God’s mercy and grace overflows. He comforts us with his love. Whatever we must face we can know his goodness will prevail and we will be comforted because he is faithful. He is worthy of all honor and praise.