“Comfort.” It’s a nice word, bringing up thoughts of well-being, security and ease. It was a word that reminded the apostle Paul of his relationship with God. Writing to the Corinthian church, he noted that God “comforts us in all our affliction ... (2 Cor. 1:4). Finishing his thought, he added, “... so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” God expects those whom he has comforted to use their opportunities to help others.
Life is often hard, and everyone needs comforting, at least occasionally. God is pictured throughout Scripture as one who stands ready to comfort his children. His comfort may not always be in the form we want. In fact, it may come as discipline. But it is always an indication of his love for us. This answers (in part) the question as to just how God comforts us. He comforts us through the words and deeds of others. He wants us to share with others the consolation and encouragement we have received from God.
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of our willingness to give comfort to others. This may seem silly, but try to imagine how it would feel to try to hug yourself. It’s just not very helpful or satisfying, is it? We do need to know that God loves us, and to love ourselves — but we also need the love of others. In the same way, it is vital that we try to reach out to others and provide as much encouragement as we can.
Our efforts — like everything else — will be imperfect, maybe even a failure. But there is a tremendous amount of good that can be done just by making an honest, sincere effort. Those who grieve at the loss of loved ones may remember little of what others say to try to comfort them. But they will almost certainly remember the presence of those who made the effort. Furthermore, we can and should pray for God’s help in providing help to others.
There are many passages that speak of the importance of comforting one another:
Concerning a penitent brother in the Corinthian fellowship, Paul wrote, “Now ... you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (2 Corinthians 2:7).
Regarding Jesus’ model: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by [having the mind of Christ], having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (Philippians 2:1-2).
To some who expect everyone to be strong always, Paul said, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
The “apostle to the gentiles” reminded some of the church at Thessalonica of his style of ministry and apostolic example: “you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God ...” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
These are only a few of the many times God has encouraged us to try to give comfort to others, especially those of the family of God.
Comforting others can be done in many ways. However it is done, it needs to be done. Will you try to help provide some comfort for someone today?