“Hear ye! Hear ye!” My theme for the month is BOAST. Well, I want to boast in Christ and Him alone. I want to shout from the roof tops that my God is a God of all comfort. I have the very awesome privilege of co-lecturing at a Bible study at my church. It is a women’s study and we meet on Tuesday mornings. This semester we are studying II Corinthians. I'm not the administrator, I just do as I am told. Which I rather like. Belinda, the administrator, has been given free reign to boss me around. I think she rather likes it. I mean, who wouldn’t want a slave/servant to do whatever you tell them to do? That is my role in this study. And she knows it. I have told her so.
So, she passed out the lecture dates and I got January 24, 2017 covering II Corinthians 1. I knew before I even opened my Bible what I was to lecture on. Now, there are 24 verses in chapter one, but God wanted me to focus on verses 3-7. It took 2 months of study and 12 pages of notes to give a 40 minute lecture. But what I learned will be ruminating for a lifetime. I would like to share a few of the things that I learned as I prepared for this study. Now, in order to fully appreciate this, imagine me in my pajamas, robe and slippers. That was what I was wearing when I lectured the other day.
I am all about comfort. I love a warm fire, a day at the beach in the warm sun, a scorching hot bath, candles, hot tea or coffee or a nice warm sweet bite. Then there's soup, homemade macaroni and cheese, homemade cinnamon rolls, hot bread fresh from the
oven....the list could go on. I really don't like to be uncomfortable. What I have found to be true is that if I am all about comfort, God is even more so. He lavishes His comfort on us.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3
In the Greek comfort is paraklete. The word means: to come alongside, to call near, invite, solace, consolation. In reading 2 Corinthians I found myself thinking about the Trinity. And I noticed that each part of the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - have their own way of giving us comfort.
Father - In Genesis 6:6 we read that God was grieved and had pain in His heart. We then read a few verses later of the full account of Noah, whose name means rest, but sounds like the Hebrew word for comfort, nacham. Jeremiah calls out to God in Jeremiah 8:18, "O my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me." Then as we saw in 2 Corinthians 1:3, God is THE God of all comfort. False gods can offer nothing. Nothing. They are not living, they are man-made chunks of clay or wood.
Son - In Luke 2:25 we read about a man named Simeon "who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel." This man was in Jerusalem when Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus came to the Temple so Jesus could be presented to the Lord. When Simeon saw Jesus, he knew his wait was over. Also, in Isaiah we read in 62:2 that one of the many prophecies written about Jesus was that He would "comfort all who mourn." One look through the gospels would show that He did just that while He was here on earth, and I can see all around me that He is comforting still.
Holy Spirit - Did you know that the Holy Spirit in Greek is Paraklete? His very name is Comfort! Jesus told His disciples about Him when they were together in the Upper Room just hours before His betrayal. "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of Truth." (John 14:16-17). Jesus knew His disciples would be bewildered, scared, run away, and in need of Someone who could understand their plight. He provided just exactly what they would need when the time came, which was pretty soon. Our God is still providing in the same way. The Holy Spirit comes alongside us and we are not alone. Not ever. He walks with us through every trial, hardship and affliction.
So, after I saw how the Trinity is involved in comfort, I asked the question: "What comfort do I receive?" I have by no means a complete exhaustive list, but it got me thinking, which is always good. In Psalm 23:4 we read that the Shepherd's rod and staff comfort the Psalmist. How can a stick provide comfort?? The Hebrew word for rod means.....stick. Oh, but its use is where we find the comfort. A rod was an instrument of authority. It was used by shepherds for counting, guiding, as well as punishment and discipline, etc. I looked for a cross reference and found a very interesting verse - Ezekiel 20:37. I will take note of you as you pass under My rod, and I will bring you into the bond of covenant. When I read that I pictured God looking out for me, literally, as He counted me and as He brings me into the covenant. That covenant is the New Covenant and it's all about Jesus and His redemptive work on the cross. Oh so very comforting.
There's also love as a comfort from the Father. This is very easy to identify with. Having loving parents or being a loving parent, we can picture a warm embrace, a shoulder to cry on, an hot fudge sundae to share. Love from our Heavenly Father is Calvary, the empty tomb, John 3:16, the Holy Spirit, and so much more. What I have found to be true is that He makes His love very personal to me. He speaks to me in a language that I can understand. Every single time. What I need today may be very different from what I needed last week or what I will need tomorrow. God is such a personal, loving Abba Daddy that He knows exactly what I need.
Another comfort that I found is His Word. The whole Bible is one big promise to mankind. I love Psalm 119 in its profound way of describing God's Word. One verse that I found early on in my affliction has been a benchmark for me - It was good for me to be
afflicted so that I might learn your decrees, Psalm 119:71. It may seem bizarre, but I have found this to be true. I have thrown myself into studying His Word and I have found such comfort, solace and peace. I have found Jesus all over again. So, meditate on His Word, study it, memorize it. Sing it, say it out loud, quote it to someone else, even out loud to yourself if necessary. When I am really having a hard time with the pain, I love it when my family reads to me from the Bible. It doesn't really have to apply to my situation, just His Truth being read is a great comfort to me. When I was having a MRI done to try to diagnose my affliction, I was saying the book of James out loud while I was in the tube. It drowned out the darkness and flooded it with Light. James was not applicable to my situation really, other than the fact that I was currently memorizing it.
Now I need an example of comfort, or how to comfort. Did Jesus comfort others while He was here on earth? Indeed yes. I think of Mary and Martha in John 11 at the loss of their brother Lazarus. I love the way this story unfolds. The girls send word to Jesus that "the one You love is sick." Jesus knew right away that it was Lazarus. And the sisters knew He would know that. He knows us, by name, every detail. So, what does Jesus do when He gets word? He waits and does not go to Lazarus. God's ways are not my ways, but He does go. And when the girls, one by one, go out to Him, He does comfort them. In a language they each could understand. And He asks to go to His friend. He weeps at the sight of the tomb. Jesus has pain in His heart - just like we read in Genesis 6. And, then, with a shout, Lazarus comes forth. My take away in all this? Jesus goes to the hurting and He feels with us. His very Presence in our midst. Another time I like to read about is in Luke 8:40-56. There are actually 2 stories in one. Jairus's daughter is sick, Jesus makes His way to the home. However, on the way, a woman who has been suffering reaches out and touches the hem of Jesus's garment. She is healed immediately and Jesus knows power has gone out of Him. He looks in the crowd to see who touched Him, she falls at His feet and tells all. He says to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace." (Verse 48). Meanwhile, Jairus's daughter dies. Jesus's original reason for going, now no longer exists. But He goes, and the daughter was raised to life. Again we see Jesus going, and not being deterred from offering comfort and in both cases healing. Raising from the dead actually. What I love about both of these is the compassion of Jesus. He was there, willing to be in the midst of the pain, of life, and people.
So. I have identified comfort. Seen God in comfort and found out ways that I have received comfort. Now what? What do I do with all of this?
For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 2 Corinthians 1:5
Realistically, I don't see how Christ's sufferings can be my comfort. His pain, my comfort? His death, my relief? His agony my consolation? But it is so. And not only that, comfort overflows so my comfort can now be for someone else.
So, I can boast. I can boast of a mighty God of all comfort. I can rest in the knowledge that He cares for me. I can find and receive comfort from my Jesus. He meets me where I am and gives me exactly what I need. And I'm grateful.