The God of all Comfort

Many decades ago there was a devout Christian, who as a young lad of fifteen became paralysed by breaking his back. For the next forty years, until his death, he was confined to bed, having to lie flat because movement caused him terrible pain. According to members of his family he suffered acutely almost every day.

The stricken man had such a strong Christian faith people used to come to him for spiritual guidance and advice. On one occasion a visitor asked him “Does Satan ever tempt you to doubt God’s love?” The man replied “Oh yes, he used to try and tempt me. I would lie here and see my old school mates walking by and Satan would almost scream in my ears ‘If God loves you why did He let your back be broken?’ But I soon discovered an easy way to overcome that temptation so I haven’t had it for years. Whenever I was tempted to doubt His love I would start to think of the Cross. I used to think of the scourging of Jesus, then I used to imagine the nails being driven into His Hands and Feet and I would say ‘there is the proof He loves me’ and with that thought the temptation would depart.”

This man had become aware that the Lord Jesus fully appreciated what it was like to suffer, because He Himself had endured the torture and excruciating agony of the Cross. He had come to see the Lord as a Fellow-Companion in his suffering.

Scripture repeatedly mentions this work of comfort and support which the Lord gives to those who are suffering. It shows clearly that He is not a Being Who is “remote and distant” away up in the Heavens, but a God Who is close beside us and with us. He suffers when we suffer, He grieves when we grieve and He endures all that we endure. God has not called us to a life of loneliness but to a life of Companionship and Comradeship with Him and so we walk along the path of life together hand in hand. No matter what we go through, He goes through it with us.

This work of comforting and supporting is so much part of His nature it is one of the actual titles of God. In 2nd Corinthians Ch1vs3-4, God is entitled “The Father of mercies and God of all comfort” -- “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 tribulation that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” What beautiful words and there are numerous others such as;

“The Eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy Ch33v27); “In all their affliction He was afflicted.” (Isaiah Ch63v9); “Fear not, you are Mine…when you pass through the waters I will be with you…and when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, for I Am the Lord your God.” (Isaiah Ch43vs1-2); “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm46v1); “Cast your burden on the Lord and He shall sustain you, because He will never permit the righteous to be overcome.” (Ps55v22); “He shall cover you with His feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge…”.( Ps91v4); “God heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm147v3); “Cast all your cares upon Him because He cares for you.” (1st Peter Ch5v7); “My grace is sufficient for you because My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2nd Corinthians Ch12vs9-10). See also Psalm 37vs 17, 23-24, 39-40; Matthew Ch5v4;Ch6vs25-34; Ch25v40; John Ch16v33; and Romans Ch8vs38-39.

When a person faces suffering, be it, bereavement, ill health, redundancy or whatever, they have a clear choice lying before them. They can either look to “The God of Comfort” for comfort and help or they can choose to be rebellious and bear their burden alone. Depending on their decision they will either become a better Christian or a bitter Christian. The first way, which was the choice made by the man with the broken back, leads to deeper fellowship with the Lord and a greater perception of His love and care. The second way leads to isolation, bitterness of spirit and a falling away from the Christian faith from which there is little chance of return.

Sometime ago a minister described how a member of his congregation was changed after she made the right choice and experienced the Lord’s comfort during a time of suffering. He explained that prior to her trouble she had a cold and harsh nature and never displayed love or sympathy for anyone. She went away for months. On her return to the parish, the Vicar called on her again only to find her totally different. The cold nature was gone and in its place was kindness and warmth. Her face was no longer drawn and pinched, but radiant and content. As they sat having a cup of tea she explained that while she was away she had gone through a terrible personal trial. She added “Everything had gone and nothing was left to me but God. Then I turned to Him in trust and acceptance in a way I had never done so before. Such was the comfort He gave me I could almost touch Him because His presence was so real.” She had chosen the path to becoming a better Christian and it had completely changed her from “within”.

It is often said “Happiness is an inside job” and this is never truer than when applied to spiritual matters. Those who turn to the Lord in times of trouble will indeed find themselves changed for the better from “within”. Those who reject His comfort will also find themselves changed from “within” but for the worse.

Scripture reassures us that God knows and loves each one of us individually and that no one is hidden from His sight or excluded from His compassion. (Psalm 139vs1-18;Hebrews Ch 4v13). Every person is equally significant to Him no matter who they are and no matter how humble their station in life. God is Infinite in His care, and the realm of physical nature demonstrates this spiritual truth. In creation there is nothing too large for Him to be interested in and care for, just as there is nothing too small. He completes the largest star in the heavens with the same attention to detail as He puts into the tiniest insect, petal or shell on the beach. Each is completed with as much care as though it alone existed in the Universe. The same is true when it comes to His level of interest and care for every single human being.

To illustrate this, Jesus used the example of the sparrow. In Luke Ch 12vs6-7 He said “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And yet not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Pastor James McConkey once wrote of an incident which brought home to him the profound beauty of this teaching. “It was a beautiful day, so I was sitting on the veranda enjoying the sunshine and the sky. Suddenly I became conscious of the swift flight of some small object before my eyes. This was followed by a dull thud and something falling onto the grass. There before my eyes, not ten feet away, lay the crumpled body of a sparrow. He turned upon his back, his little claws stretched appealing to the sky; there was a convulsive shiver as though in pain and then the tiny eyelids closed in death. A short gasp and it was all over. A tell tale spot of blood on his breast explained what had happened. His swift flight in the air had brought him into collision with the telegraph pole and his sparrow life had been the price. It was only a passing incident, this death of a sparrow. Seemingly no one but myself sitting there alone had noticed it. But like a flash came to my mind those precious words, ‘not one sparrow is forgotten before God.’ “(See also Psalm 50vs10-11).

The Lord is the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” He knows everything about us right down to the tiniest detail. He knows all our problems, all our worries and all our fears. Those who look to Him for support find that He is truly their Companion in trouble and a Divine Fellow-Sufferer Who shares all that they endure.