I cannot think of our Lord without thinking of all he suffered on my account. When I realize it was on account of my sin it causes me sorrow and shame. How can one go on under the shadow of grief? How can one continue under the burden of guilt? The only thing I can do is repent of my sin and in that process turn to God for comfort from which I derive strength to continue on with my life. We all have sinned, and even if we have been forgiven, we still make mistakes. None of us are yet perfect. For the pain that comes to us for these things we continue to need comfort.
When the apostle Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians he speaks eloquently of this comfort and of him who is the source of “all comfort.” In his first letter to them he had rebuked them sharply for the many sins of which they had been guilty. This, he said he did, not just to cause them pain, but that they might know the great love he had for them. This did cause them pain and sorrow for their sin – as it should us when we learn we are guilty of sin, but now that they had repented they needed comforting.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
“Comfort” is one of the sweetest words in our vocabulary.
Etymologically, it is “to call alongside of,” i.e. to summon for assistance. To comfort is to cheer and encourage. It has a positive force wanting in its synonym “console,” as it indicates the dispelling of grief by the impartation of strength. (ISBE).
It is derived from the same word that refers to the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised his disciples when he was preparing them for his departure. He said, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby), that He may remain with you forever— (John 14:16 AMP). Jesus had been their comforter, helper, strengthener. After his departure it would be the Holy Spirit who would fulfill this role for them.
We all like physical comfort. I like a comfortable chair to sit in, comfortable shoes on my feet and a comfortable bed in which to sleep. But when I am in sorrow, grief or emotional pain I need comfort, not just something comfortable. In times like these, someone to stand beside us and share our sorrow and pain. They don’t have to say anything. Just being there because they care often means more than words. Caring words do mean a lot, but there is no substitute for the warmth of a friendly face and a loving hug.
God comforts us and is always there for us. He promised his people of long ago that he would never leave them nor forsake them and he will do the same for us today. Money and the things of this world are no substitute for the comfort of his presence. From his care we receive strength to continue on despite the sorrows or losses we are enduring.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).
Just to know that he is there for us and that we can call upon him at any time is a source of great comfort. To know that he hears and answers prayer is also a comfort. We are assured that because Jesus is our high priest we can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).
To know that Jesus endured temptation, sorrow and pain just as we do is a great source of comfort because we know he is sympathetic to our condition (Hebrews 4:15). He who himself is God suffered as a man, was scorned and crucified as a man knows every trial, every pain, every sorrow we know and cares that we are enduring these things.
The Holy Spirit also comforts the children of God.
“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (Acts 9:31).
Knowing that the Spirit is a continuing divine presence among believers gives us great comfort and encouragement. Knowing that not only does God know what is happening in our lives, but that the Spirit is with us as well lets us know that we really are not alone. In times of suffering such as the apostle had in mind in Romans 8:26-27, the Spirit is said to make intercession for us.
Paul shows in Philippians 2:1-2 that there is a complex interaction involved in the relationship and comfort, Christ, the Spirit and other Christians. He said…
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”
There is encouragement in Christ, comfort from love, participation in the Spirit, but for the apostle, the picture was only complete when Christians were brought into the picture. God uses people to do his work of comforting in many instances. Paul knew and valued the comforting of others and that their sympathizing presence was from God. He spoke of both Titus and Philemon as having comforted him.
“But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,” (2 Corinthians 7:6).
“For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” (Philemon 1:7).
One thing we should remember when we go to someone to comfort them. We are not there to either explain their pain or to explain it away. When we go to the hospital to visit the sick, do not be like Job’s friends. Job was in pain from both his losses and from his own illness. His three friends – he called them “miserable comforters” – tried to convince him that God was punishing him for some sin he had committed and that he needed to just “’fess up.” We don’t need to try and explain God or his actions because we simply do not know the mind of God and it is presumption on our part to attempt to speak for him when he has not spoken. It is enough for a friend to just be there to sympathize and to share the pain. It is enough for a friend to just be there to lean on and to listen. It is enough for a friend to just care and to assure us of God’s care and comfort.
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).