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The Comforts of Good Mothers

Updated: May 11

The word comfort serves as both a verb and a noun. As a verb, it means to soothe someone in their time of pain or distress. To comfort someone is to ease their misery, or to ameliorate their suffering.  As a noun, it means the pleasurable or contented feeling of being free from the physical and mental hardships that grip our fallen world. A good mother demonstrates both meanings.  For instance, she diligently comforts her children when they ache. Also, her children find comfort in her arms and in her presence – even after they are no longer children. The trait of comfort is one way in which mothers bear the image of God.

This personification of comfort by good mothers is powerful. So powerful, in  fact, that God lends to mothers a place of honor through the very attribute of comfort with which he has blessed them. In Isaiah 66:13, God tells his chosen people that he will comfort them in their trouble like a human mother. Notice that he doesn’t say that a human mother comforts her child like he divinely comforts his people, but instead, that in his divinity he will comfort his people as a mother comforts her child! With this turn-the-table grammatical construction, he gives his people a tangible reference by which they can intuitively relate to the relief that he is going to provide for them. The actual comfort, obviously, is rooted in the almighty strength of God’s goodness, but it is also intricately tangled up with how everyone experiences the warm, soft, caring nature of a good, human mother.  

This unmistakable motherly theme is present in various places throughout the bible.  One of the most intriguing of those places is in the first chapter of Proverbs where the biblical writer moves us away from the comfort a mother provides with her warmth, her touch, and her soothing voice, to the comfort that arises from a spiritual foundation that she lays as a means of preparing a child to stand firm with a righteous life in a world that will be both hostile toward any righteousness he has, as well as hellbent on stealing it from him. It is there in that first chapter of Proverbs that we are urged to hear the instruction of our fathers, and not to forsake the law of our mothers (Proverbs 1:8 KJV). The word for law in that verse is translated from the Hebrew word “torah,” which is the same word that the Hebrew people use as a name for the first 5 books of the Old Testament.  These are the bible's foundational books which speak to God’s might, our fragility, and the very real nature of our enemies. When we remember them, and do not forsake them, we have order in our lives, along with a comfort that strangely grows out of a beginning of wisdom and insight provided by those books (Proverbs 9:10). The person who delights in that law is able to avoid the wickedness of the world, and becomes a prosperous and rooted, living tree growing near a source that never dries up (Psalm 1:1-3). Good mothers are like this law.

God has placed himself into the nature of good mothers who serve as his female image bearers. In this role, good mothers are foundations of comfort - both in their active, soothing, warmth and touch, as well as in their teaching of bedrock truths. Good children will seek the comfort of their mothers throughout their lives, and they will find comfort in the laws with which she blessed them. Those laws will be with them as they brave every storm of life – even after their mothers are no longer around.

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