At some point in most of our lives, we have experienced these feelings. And when we do, the reactions vary.
Some rebel against God, believing He has rejected them.
Some rail against God, believing He is uncaring.
Some withdraw from God, believing they are unlovable.
Reactions such as these are not new or novel. Throughout salvation history, God’s people have felt lost, alone, or forgotten from time to time, and when they did, they looked far and wide for words of comfort.
The inhabitants of ancient Judah, including the residents of the city of Jerusalem, experienced all these emotions – and many more – after they were conquered and exiled by the Babylonians more than twenty-six hundred years ago. They had been warned that their misdeeds would result in dire consequences, but, like so many people today, they did not listen. Instead, they continued to live as if nothing would ever change.
But it did.
And when it did, the people were devastated.
During the exile, which lasted seventy years (Jeremiah 29:10), God gave His people a message of comfort and hope:
“In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’
“They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up. See, they will come from afar – some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Aswan.”
Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:8–15, NIV)
Drawing upon one of the most tender images in human experience, God asked His people, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?” Their answer would have been, “Of course not!” Then the Lord continued, “Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
A mother’s love for her baby is unique in all the world. In the animal kingdom, a mother will defend her young to the death – her death. Among humans, the maternal instinct is no less powerful; a mother will do whatever she needs to do for her baby to survive and thrive.
The same is true about God.
God, of course, is neither male nor female, but His attributes exemplify, and yet go far beyond, the very best of both human genders in the natural world. And if someone wanted to portray perfect love in human terms, the image of a mother with her baby at her breast is unmistakable.
What is so special about a mother’s love for her baby and therefore so comforting about God’s love for us?
First, this love is unconditional. It does not depend on what the object of the love does or fails to do. The baby is loved by his or her mother, and we are loved by God. Period.
Second, this love is unwavering. Too busy? Having a bad day? Better things to do? None of this matters to the mother, and none of it matters to God. The mother will take care of her baby, and God will take care of us. It’s that simple.
Third, this love is essential. A baby needs his or her mother for physical intimacy and nourishment, and we need God for spiritual intimacy and nourishment. Nothing else can satisfy as fully or completely.
The next time you feel lost or alone or forgotten, remember God’s sacred promise to His people – and to you – as set forth in the Word of God: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
-- Dr. John Morris