I’ve been told that I’m not always the best patient when I am sick. It seems that I whine a little much about my illness, perhaps even venturing into the category of complaint and discontentment. I do acknowledge that I have a propensity for not being patient with any sickness — I just want it to be over-and-done-with so that I can get on with my daily routine, uninterrupted and unchanged.
But I also want a little sympathy. I want someone to acknowledge that they are with me — I’m not alone — and that they are compassionate towards my physical suffering. I want a little comforting TLC.
However much we want comfort for our physical ills (like a child wanting a bandaid for every abrasion), we want spiritual comfort for our spiritual ills as well. And we have a Father in Heaven whose nature is to comfort. Scripture consistently reminds us of His comfort (see just a few examples in Is. 51:3, 12-13; 66:13; Mt. 5:4; 2 Th. 2:16-17). And not only does God comfort, but He has placed His Spirit (whose name is “Comforter,” Jn. 14:16, 26) within us to be a constant source of peace and encouragement to us.
So God is a comforter. But how does He comfort us?
In perhaps the most significant biblical passage (2 Cor. 1:3-7) that expounds the comforting work of God, Paul reminds us that while the believer’s suffering comes because of our identity with Christ, so also our comfort comes through Christ. However abundant our sufferings are, Christ’s comfort is just as abundant (and more). Further, whatever the source of our suffering, Christ is the answer for our troubles: “…so also our comfort is abundant through Christ” (2 Cor. 1:5).
In these verses and the surrounding context, Paul either directly states or alludes to various ways that Christ comforts His people:
- He comforts us through the gift of salvation that gives us a clear conscience (1:2, 12).
- He comforts us by saving us from our sin and from His wrath (1:6)
- He comforts us by the gift of final salvation and the perspective that brings (1:9-10)
- He comforts us by the prayers of the saints for us (1:11)
- He comforts us through the reminders of His Word of His nature (1:3-7)
- He comforts us by the indwelling of the Spirit (whose name is “Comforter”) who helps us (Jn. 15:14ff)
- He comforts us by the use of the gifts of the Spirit in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1ff)
- He comforts us by the ministry of the presence of the saints with us in our trials (Rom. 12:12)
We can be sure that whatever our suffering, He has met our need in Christ. He is comforting and He will comfort.
The comforting work of Christ also has implications for us as we seek to care for members of Christ’s body. How will we comfort others? Here are a few ideas that are derived from Christ’s comforting ministry to us:
- Comfort suffering sinners with the hope of the gospel
- Remind sufferers of our eternal hope
- Pray with and pray for sufferers
- Read and minister God’s Word to sufferers — His words are infinitely more hopeful than mine
- Remind sufferers of the Spirit of God in them to help them
- Use your spiritual gifts to serve sufferers with practical needs
- Be with sufferers — practice the ministry of presence
- Watch for people who are hurting and needy (and go outside your normal circle of relationships to seek those who need comfort)
Our desire as a church is to “Excel Still More” in caring for one another. We will grow in excellent care when we comfort one other diligently in the pattern of Christ.