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True Comfort

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In the course of our lives we find a growing need for comfort, especially in the midst of difficult times. It is no surprise, then, the concept of comfort occurs quite often in the Scriptures. One of the earliest examples of this occurs in the book of Job. In the midst of his suffering 3 “comforters” come to advise Job. By the end of the first round of their speeches (Job, chapters 4-14) Job realizes that they had given little or no comfort. Accordingly, during the second (of three rounds of speaking) Job could say to his friends, “Miserable comforters are you all” (Job 16:2). Moreover, he tells them that were the situation reversed, his mouth would “encourage” them so that “comfort from my lips would bring you bring you relief” (Job 16:5).

Indeed, when our friends and family are in distress, it is our privilege to bring comfort and encouragement to them. Interestingly, in the closing chapter of the book of Job we find that a restored Job experienced such comfort (42:10-11).

The Psalmists often express the need for comfort. Thus in the long Psalm 119 the Psalmist pleads with God for the comfort of His presence:

My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
For I put my hope in your word.
My eyes fail looking for your promise;
I say, “When will you comfort me?” (Psalm 119:81-82)

Interestingly, earlier he had assured the Lord,

My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life.

I remember your ancient laws O LORD,
And find comfort in them. (vv. 50, 52)

Again in verses 75-76 he pleads with God—this time on the basis of His faithfulness:

I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous,
And in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
May your unfailing love be my comfort,
According to your promise to your servant.

Similarly, Isaiah points out that the Great Comforter does surely bring comfort to His afflicted people , even in the most dire circumstances (Isa. 49:13). Not surprisingly Isaiah instructs his readers likewise to be those who comfort their fellow man (Isa. 46:1-2; cf. 61:2).

In the New Testament we see that Paul is one who does his best to comfort others. Thus he tells the Thessalonian believers:

You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory. (1 Thess. 2:11-12)

Such is built upon the premise that because a glorious, eternal kingdom awaits, as Walvoord explains, “God has called us to a walk that is in keeping with our destiny.”1 Leon Morris adds:

His love does not grow less no matter how low we may fall, yet we should not waiver in our grasp of the complementary truth that such a God must be served with all our powers. Nothing less can be offered to Him who gave His Son for us than all we have and all that we are.2

Paul’s most informative need of a proper and worthy walk is found in his second epistle to the Corinthians. In his instructions to the Corinthians he gives what is perhaps the key passage concerning Christian comfort. It is that which comes from God. Paul begins his second letter with this very theme (2 Cor. 1:1-7). Central to the teaching in this section is verses 3-4:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we have received from God.

Indeed, it is the Lord who ultimately is the author and active source of all comfort. As Hodge remarks,

God is the author of consolation not only by delivering from evil or by ordering our external circumstances, but also, and chiefly, by His inward influence on the mind itself, assuaging its tumulus and filling it with joy and peace in believing.3

From the above passages we learn that the believer has God’s unfailing love in all circumstances, whether in good or distressing conditions. Therefore, we may find our true comfort in God alone. Let us, then, humbly place our full reliance and trust in him who is the ultimate source of man’s support, help, and comfort (cf. 2 Cor. 7:6). Indeed, “the failure of earthly comforts and lasting succor points to a need for comfort that only God can satisfy. He is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” ”4 As we advance into our later years this becomes so very vital! As Fanny Crosby expressed it:

Take the World, but give me Jesus, Sweetest comfort of my soul;
With my Savior watching o’er me, I can sing though billows roll.5

May we, therefore, represent Christ well to all people:

Take the Name of Jesus with you,
Child of sorrow and of woe.
It will joy and comfort give you;
Take it, then, where’er you go.6

1 John F. Walvoord, The Thessalonian Epistles, (Findlay, Ohio: Durham Publishing Co., 1955), p.32.

2 Leon Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians in The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), p.85.

3 Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.), p.5.

4Comfort” in Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, eds. Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III (Downers Grove, Il: Intervarsity Press, 1998), p. 161.

5 Fanny J. Crosby, “Give Me Jesus”.

6 Lydia Baxter, “Take the Name of Jesus with You”.

Related Topics: Comfort, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

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