2 Corinthians 1:3-4 - 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 afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we are comforted by God.
What comes to mind when the word "comfort" is mentioned? A hammock in the summer shade with a gentle breeze blowing and a pitcher of cold lemonade nearby? A reclining chair beside the fire in a cozy den on a cold winter day? Sounds comfortable, doesn't it? However, this is not what the Bible has in mind when the word comfort is mentioned. In order to catch the Biblical meaning of the word comfort, picture in your mind the following situations: a struggling swimmer being rescued by a strong lifeguard; a sobbing child, lost in the supermarket, being helped by a kind store manager; a grief-stricken mother being consoled by a compassionate pastor; a falsely-accused citizen being assisted by an able defense lawyer. The word advocate in 1 John 2:1 is the same word which is translated comforter in chapters 14-16 of John, where the Lord Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit. You see, in the Bible, the primary idea in the word comfort is to come alongside to give aid in time of need. This is really what comfort is all about. No wonder this is the word that our Lord used when He spoke of the Holy Spirit who would come and comfort us. Verse 3 of our Scripture tells us that our God is a God of comfort. He is not a hard and unconcerned boss - He's a helping, supporting, compassionate, and consoling Father who comes alongside us to help in times of trouble. He is the "Father of mercies and the God of all comfort." All comfort ultimately has its source in God. Why then, in times of need, do we look within ourselves to find a source of comfort there? It's just not there! It's pretty hard to "come alongside of" yourself to help yourself! The source of all comfort resides outside ourselves in God. David said, "I will lift up mine eyes...My help comes from the Lord." David knew that it was useless to look within himself for help. All his help was from without--from the Lord Himself (Psalm 121). In the first part of verse 4 there's a promise we can claim: Our heavenly Father will comfort us in all our affliction. The word affliction here means "pressed" or "burdened of spirit." It could be caused by physical suffering. It could be caused by the pressure of distressing circumstances. It could be the antagonism of persons. It could be anything in life that gets us down. God has promised to come alongside us and help us during all these times. So let's claim this promise! Do you feel like tossing in the towel right now because nobody appreciates the job you're doing? Claim the promise and call on the Lord. He will "come alongside" and help you. Does it seem that everyone is picking on you, or doesn't understand you? Look to the Lord. He has promised to "come alongside" and comfort you. Now one word of qualification is in order here. The Bible tells us that when we call on the Lord it should be "out of a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:22). In other words, if our spirits are pressed because we are bitter against God, or angry with our folks, or jealous of our roommate, then we should not expect God to come alongside and comfort us! Most likely He will discipline us (in love, of course). But if our hearts are "right," then we can always count on God to "come alongside" to comfort and help us in our times of need. Another beautiful side of this promise in verse 4 is that He will comfort us in all ourafflictions. A problem for us is what is pressing in on our spirits. Someone else may consider this burden insignificant, or our specific problem may be too personal to discuss with anyone, but it is pressure on our spirit just the same. So if we call on the Lord, we can be sure that He will come alongside us to give us aid. We must admit that sometimes we make mountains out of molehills and we do mix up our priorities. Many of our problems are our own fault--but still God, in His grace, comes alongside to help us in our problems. What a promise! In the second half of verse 4 a responsibility is given to Christians who have known the comfort of God. We are to comfort others! The comfort of God is not a dead-end with us - we are to pass it along! This is one very personal method that God had chosen to distribute His comfort. We are to "come alongside of" others who are in need and give them comfort. We are not comforted to be comfortable - but to be comforters. We see, then, that one of the reasons why God permits us to go through troubles and hardships is to open up "comfort channels" for others. Did you ever experience the comfort of God when you were lonely? Then "come alongside" that lonely student down the hall and pass on the comfort of God. Did God "come alongside of" you and bridge the troubled waters when the guy you dated for two years broke up with you? Then "come alongside" that heart-broken girl who needs the comfort that only God can give. Was the Lord there to help you when you lost your job? Then "come alongside" your neighbor or church member who has just been laid off and let God comfort him through you. You have become a channel of comfort! We are not to avoid people who have problems, but rather we are to get involved--to "comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." A lot of Christians have the idea that the "ideal life" on this earth is one which is completely free of any problems or afflictions--just one big comfortable ride. They even get a little uptight with God when things don't go smoothly, and feel that God is "letting them down." But if our lives were free of problems we would never know the comfort of God. Think of a little child who falls and scrapes his knee. His father "comes alongside" and picks him up. He consoles him and gently washes and bandages his knee. That wonderful experience of fatherly comfort was only possible because the child had the "problem of affliction" of a painful scraped knee. Yes, God permits us to "scrape a few knees" in this life so that we can experience the comfort of our heavenly Father. The "ideal life" for the growing Christian is not one that is comfortable--it is one that is comforted.