Qualified to Bring Comfort
by Steve Bacon
“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…” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4a, NASB
A toddler is suddenly awakened by the rumble of thunder. In a split second, her tiny heart begins to race, and her breathing quickens. She realizes that her night light is not working, and the room is totally dark. That is until a flash of white light blasts through the window causing a sea of plastic doll eyes to stare at her while eerie shadows appear then quickly disappear upon the inside walls of her closet.
Knowing nothing of the science of a violent thunderstorm, she’s shaking, frozen on her bed, unable to utter a sound. Alone and frightened, a dark figure enters her room. It rushes toward her and without a sound, sweeps her up in it’s arms.
Now, as if cradled, a sound is heard…shhhh. Shhhh. The frightened girl feels herself being rocked back and forth. The arms surrounding her relax their grip and she feels her hair being stroked. As her fear subsides the little girl recognizes the warm breath and assuring sounds are those of her mother.
The storm continues to rage on the opposite side of the glass.
The mother knows all too well the violence of a storm. She knows the crash of thunder, the flashes of light and the pounding rain will be frightening to her child. Without hesitation, she races into the room to bring comfort. Where did the mother learn to do that? Court ordered sensitivity training? Practicing healthcare provider compassion? Maybe intuition? My guess is she learned the art of comforting from her own mother.
This is the picture I get as I dig into the meaning of the Greek words Paul is using as he begins his second letter to the Corinthian church. God initiates comfort in all occurances of affliction because it is His nature. Coinciding with his nature to comfort is his purpose, which for his children, is to train and transform them to be image bearers and imitators of his disposition to give comfort to others in the same way we have received it ourselves.
“… so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:4b-5, NASB
Genuine, warm, compassionate, condition-less comfort. Notice it is not pity or sympathy both of which have the tendency to place the hurting individual below rather than beside the caregiver.
I believe the ability to give comfort of this caliber is rooted in the revelation of what your salvation really means. That instant when you suddenly realize that you were in fact saved by grace and your mind becomes flooded with the reality of what you’ve been saved from. Hell is suddenly real to you. So real, in fact, that you draw a quick breath, a rush of blood flows to your face, your heart beat quickens, and you break a sweat till suddenly you feel cradled and comforted in the arms of Jesus.
I’m convinced that until you’ve needed mercy extended to you, you’re not fully equipped to extend it to another. The same goes for comfort. When you have allowed yourself to receive the comfort that only the God of all comfort can give, you are ready to give it to another.
- Affliction can be as intimidating as it is unbearable. As believers, what is difficult at times to discern is the reason a person suffers. This was the case with Eliphaz in the story of Job. Eliphaz assumed Job’s situation was caused by unconfessed sin:
“Remember now, whoever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off? Even as I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. Job 4:7,8
- We know Eliphaz was wrong as were his companions, yet we are equally vulnerable of jumping to the same conclusion.
Have you ever been guilty of making similar assumptions when others are faced with afflictions?
Which seems more difficult, to go through a personal trial with someone who means well, but fails at bringing you true comfort, or to be in the position of bringing comfort to another as they go through a trial?
- For some, achieving another’s relief from affliction as soon as possible is most preferred because it brings a conclusion to the awkwardness of caregiving.
Is that true for you?
If you are in such a situation now, what steps should you take to change that attitude?
Are you able to let God be God in times of affliction?
- What benefits are there to enduring an extended period of affliction?
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Many of us come equipped with a fully functioning “fight or flight” response to trouble. I have been resorting to the fight response because I can’t utilize my preferred method which is flight. You can’t hurt me if I’m not here! But if you “above all else…stand” you begin to realize that you’ve come this far and you’re not dead yet. Your adrenalin ebbs and you have time to realize that maybe there are answers that you haven’t understood. Maybe thunder and flashing lightning aren’t poised to kill you. Maybe 7th grade Math can be accomplished without argueing about it for an hour. Maybe your schedule can be slightly varied without you melting down. Maybe you can need to clean your house so you can have company without turning into a beady-eyed screaming monster. May you will have space to breathe and learn to be comforted. Maybe…
You are blessed to have these kinds of maybe’s at this time of your life. I am still working on some of them, one day at a time. Thank you for sharing your struggles as mine now seem to be less of a mountain to climb. hugs