Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3,4
Nobody likes pain. We naturally wonder, Where is God when it hurts? and Why is this happening? The Scriptures tell us that suffering may occur from a variety of causes, including natural disasters, the consequences of our own sins, and the effects of others sins against us. Whatever the cause, and whether we ever figure it out, our response can include two things: turning to God for comfort and then comforting others who are in pain.
God never promised a pain-free life. Some preachers claim God will give people unlimited prosperity and health, but those promises prove to be cruel hoaxes to those who believe them. Instead, God promises that our pain will never be in vain. No matter what we experience, and whether we ever learn the reason or not, God is willing to enter our pain with us, to give us a sense of His presence, and provide genuine comfort for us. The process may be short or long, but if we cling to God, we’ll experience His mercy and comfort. Then, and only then, will we be able to comfort others who feel just as much despair, emptiness, and heartache as we felt in the midst of our pain.
When we’ve experienced true comfort, we realize that pat answers do more harm than good and that simple solutions seldom help at all. A friend “just being there” is often the greatest comfort we can experience, and when people around us are suffering, we use few words as we stay near them.
First, though, we experience God’s kindness, tenderness, patience, and love in our darkest moments. This experience is our greatest resource in comforting others.
There’s nothing you will ever face that you and God can’t handle. The Lord promises us He will give us the grace to bear whatever burden comes our way.
To the lame man at the gate, Peter said, “such as I have give I thee.” The truth is that we can’t give what we don’t have and we only have such things as peace and comfort in this world unless we have received them from God. Paul reminds us that it is God who is the “Father of mercies.” To us who rightfully deserve judgement and penalty for our own sins, He offers mercy and grace. We’re it not for the mercy of God, most of us would truly be living wretched, hopeless lives. Sin may have its pleasure for a season, but eventually it call in the bill and when that moment comes, we are left empty and broken. Once our contribution to Satan’s schemes of destruction are no longer needed, he discards us on the rubbish heap of this present world. Robbed of our self worth and esteem, we are left with the wreck we’ve made of our lives. Like the prodigal son, our “friends” abandon us and we are left alone in the pigpen. In to that wretched place walks the Father of mercies who gathers us up from the rubbish heap, washes the filth off us, dresses us in His robes of righteousness and feeds our hungry souls. Those of us who have received such mercy now has mercy to give to the others who need mercy. Jesus said it this way, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” Maybe there’s someone in your life today that needs mercy. Notice I didn’t say deserves mercy but nevertheless needs mercy- your mercy and God’s mercy. Perhaps when you show them mercy and tell them that you can give mercy because you have been given mercy, they will turn to God and ask for His mercy. Often the perception about God comes from those who profess to know God.
Paul also reminds us that He is the “God of all comfort, who comforts us.” As hard as people try we have no capacity to give the comfort necessary to those who are hurting and grieving. There are those times when words aren’t enough although we may offer them. In truth only the God of all comfort can give us the comfort we truly need. In John 14 Jesus was with the disciples just before He was to be crucified. He knew that when He left them, they would be despondent so He said to them, “Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God and believe also in me.” Our comfort comes from our trust in the Lord. We may never know why life is filled with hurt, disappointment, and loss but one thing we can know is that God is ever present at all times. Even when we can’t find the words to express our pain, God feels our hurt. Paul says in Romans that the Holy Spirit understands our groans.
“In the same way the Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26
As Jesus introduces us to the Holy Spirit, He introduces Him as the Comforter. In this troubled world, we need a Comforter. We need someone who will walk beside us as we pass through the valleys of trouble and fear that will hold us close in the storm. Only God can reach down into a broken heart, a heart devastated, and fill it with peace, peace that passes all understanding.
But Paul tells us that we who have received the comfort of God are now to give comfort to others. How do we give such a gift? Peter says that we can give what we have received. We don’t give comfort from our own power or knowledge, but if we have received comfort from God ourselves, we can tell how God has comforted us in our trials and remind those who need comfort that He will comfort them also. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in our little world and our problems that we pass by those whom life has broken and left in shambles. But those of us who have received comfort from God have a great gift to offer- the comfort of God. We are not created to be reservoirs but pipe lines. In other words we aren’t designed to bottle up and store up the blessings of God but to be the connection between God and humanity. Jesus gave us a great principle that unfortunately many of us have relegated to the giving of money. Here’s what He said, “Give and it shall be given unto you, full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over….” In other words whatever you give away returns back multiplied. When you give out a little mercy, you receive abundant mercy. When you give forgiveness for some little thing, you receive great forgiveness for your sins against God. When you give a little comfort, you receive great comfort. You see God never asks us to be His representatives without first giving to us what He’s asking us to give to others. When we dare to give away what we have, God resupplies what we’ve given away and more besides. I’ve had people over the years to ask me if I ever get tired of providing ministry to hurting people. When I served as a hospice chaplain people asked how I could manage such a difficult ministry. My answer is that as long as I stayed connected to God and was constantly receiving from Him, there was always sufficient to give away. But when I shut off the inflow from God, I soon ran dry with nothing to have much less to give.
The secret to a fruitful life of helping others is to remember that we can only give what we have first received.
If you are in need of comfort today, first of all turn your eyes on Jesus. Second of all look for a broken person who is at peace and receive comfort from them. Then find a hurting person who needs comfort and pass it along. You’ll be amazed at how God will work in the three of you!
Dr. John Thompson