The Comfort of God


This is lesson 11 in the series "The Attributes of God."
 

The Comfort of God

We may not fully understand God’s omniscience.

We may not think too much about His omnipotence.

And we may not easily get at all what the big deal is concerning His eternity.

But because no one is a stranger to pain and affliction we can easily embrace “the God of all comfort.”

For this study we are going to split it into two sections: 1) A contemplation of God’s comfort and 2) How to experience God’s comfort.

Jesus can relate to our pain because He has experienced it Himself

 

We can go through the Scriptures and find situation after situation where Jesus experienced something terrible or grievous or, at least, uncomfortable.

Hebrews 4:15-16

 15For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

 16Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Loneliness: Matthew 26:46, “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying," ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" that is, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”

Temptation: Matthew 4:1, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

Death of close relative/friend: Matthew 14:11-13, “And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus. Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself…”

Physical pain: Matthew 27:35, “And when they had crucified Him…”

Betrayal by a close friend: Matthew 26:47-48a, “While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign…”

Falsely accused: Matthew 26:59, “Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death.”

Abandonment by friends: Matthew 26:71-72, “When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ And again he denied it with an oath, "I do not know the man."

Financial loss/homelessness: Matthew 8:20, “Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’”

Isaiah 53:3-5

    3He was despised and forsaken of men,
         A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
         And like one from whom men hide their face
         He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
    4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
         And our sorrows He carried;
         Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
         Smitten of God, and afflicted.
    5But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
         He was crushed for our iniquities;
         The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
         And by His scourging we are healed.

The Man of Sorrows has become the God all comfort.

All of God’s attributes intensify the magnificence of His comfort

 

Because God is omniscient He knows the deepest and most intimate detail of our lives. This includes our thoughts, hopes, desires, and feelings. Therefore, He is able to fully understand what we are going through. But not only does He understand the pain, but He also knows the perfect solution.

Because God is omnipotent there is no pain too deep or too complex that He cannot heal. His arm is not too short to save; therefore, it is not too short to heal.

Because God is eternal He knew our sorrows from time past and has a solution for all time in the future.

Because God is immutable His desire for our well-being will never change.

Because God is love He will always have deep concern for us. He will never toy with us or be glad to see us suffer because we deserve it.

Our source of comfort is God

 

In Psalm 143 David speaks of a number of anguishes.

He was persecuted.

His life was crushed.

He was dwelling in dark places.

He was like one long dead.

His spirit was overwhelmed.

His heart was appalled.

His spirit was failing.

His enemies were after him.

So in all of this to what or whom did he turn?

 

 Verse 6, “I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land.”

The thirsty soul will find no greater satisfaction than in that of its God. The best that the world has to offer is escape; God offers Himself. The world scorns weakness; God uses it. The world encourages us to complain about our misery; God tells us to focus on His greatness. We love self-pity; God wants self-denial.


The Scriptures abound with promises to the afflicted.

 Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.”

 Psalm 40:17, “Since I am afflicted and needy, the Lord is mindful of me; Thou art my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.”

 Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.”

Isaiah 57:15, “’I dwell on a high and holy place and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the heart of the contrite.’”

 Jeremiah 17:14, “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for Thou art my praise.”

What must grip our hearts is that these are not abstract principles but concrete promises confirmed by none less than the supreme God.

Our main source of comfort is not always what God gives but in who God is. Psalm 73:28, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good.”

How to receive God’s comfort

 

It is easy in Christianity to toss out clichés. When someone is confused it is easy to say “Trust God.” Now that is true to a very great degree, but then we leave the person sitting there saying, “But how?” We have given them the glorious destination but with no map on how to get there.

Jeremiah 16:14, "They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, 'Peace, peace,'  But there is no peace.”

We are all probably guilty of this. We take the easy road. It is a road that is short and well paved but it does not really take us very far. It is the road of simple clichés. Then there is the hard road. It is longer, not so well lit and in a lot of places we have to hack through the entanglements and underbrush. But at the end it is much more satisfying. This is the road of support, encouragement, friendship, and caring.

Humility

 

1 Peter 5:6-7

 6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,

 7casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

Humility means what?

·         Not demanding that God do something right now

·         Not telling God how He must remedy the situation

·         Not focusing on “Why me?” and playing the victim card

·         Telling people about the pain so that they might prayer, support, encourage, and help but not telling them so that you might be the center of attention

·         Not despising yourself because you are weak and vulnerable or because you make mistakes or because you let your emotions get the best of you

 

Our frailty is not a cause of scorn from God, but because He knows our weakness, He has compassion. It is, indeed, our very impotence which draws forth the kindness and strength of God. How often we are tempted to think of our weaknesses as reason for the Lord to despise us, to shun us. We take the attitude that because we fail, we must stand alone and overcome or be overcome. We are driven by some prideful compulsion to prove ourselves to others, to ourselves and to God. Because we judge on the basis of outward appearance, we assume that God does also. Yet it was the lepers, the paralyzed, and the dead whom Christ touched. The scriptures say, “For power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). What we regard as a hindrance, God may see as a vehicle to manifest His great and magnificent glory.

The wicked want God to give them gain; the righteous see that their gain is God.

If we do not understand the “why” of a situation then it becomes more necessary to understand the “Who.” Understanding the “why” of a trial is limited to that one situation. But understanding God applies to all situations.

Isaiah 51:12, “I, even I, am He who comforts you…”

Prayer

 

Philippians 4:6-7

 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

In this verse we see four different types of prayer being mentioned: prayer, supplication, thanksgiving, and requests.

Basically, what God is saying is that when you are feeling anxious you should pray, pray, pray, and pray.

Recovery comes mainly through growth and not rescue

 

We want immediate results. When we are in pain we want the pain to be gone now. So we turn to alcohol, drugs, eating, or other immediate, and not ultimately helpful, means of relief.

Our faith may not be big enough to move a mountain, but it is always big enough to move God.

Hosea 5:15, “In their affliction they will earnestly seek me.” Our greatest need is the presence of God; our greatest motivation is, oftentimes, pain.

John 5:1-9

 1After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

 2Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes.

 3In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters;

 4for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]

 5A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.

 6When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, "Do you wish to get well?"

 7The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me."

 8Jesus said to him, "Get up, pick up your pallet and walk."

 9Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day.

In John 5 there was a man who suffered from paralysis for 38 years and every time he thought that he might be healed someone else stepped in front and stole away his hope. Then Jesus came and, in His mercy, healed him. This man never gave up hope. He kept trying for 38 years. Had he been home feeling sorry for himself he would never have met Jesus. Whether our pain is emotional, physical, social, or spiritual, Jesus can heal us.  And Jesus can more than heal; He can restore. This man may never have walked and yet not only did Jesus heal his paralysis but He enabled him to carry his pallet and walk without falling.

Jesus can do more than heal our crushing grief; He can give us joy.

He can do more than heal our social fears; He can teach us to be a great friend.

Jesus can do more than deliver us from hell; He can make us a citizen of Heaven.

The intimacy of healing

 

Healing is one of God’s greatest times of intimacy. When God heals someone, that person is not merely a character in a big show. He is not a prop used to wow everyone and then left to go his way. Yes, many of Jesus’ healings were done publically, but if we examine them we see that His attention was on the person and not on the crowd. He did not approach an invalid and wave His arms and shout, “Come gather around and see what I am about to do.” Rather, He asked, “What can I do for you?”

In Mark 5 a 12-year old girl had died. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house there was a commotion. There were relatives and friends and, as in the tradition of the times, mourners hired to weep and wail.

But Jesus put them all out and only took with Himself the child’s father and mother and His three companions. And in the silence of the room He took the child’s hand and spoke and the child rose up alive.

Mark 5:40, “He took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was.”

 

There were three healings here: the child’s death and the grief and fear of the father and mother. And here in a small room in a dusty village Jesus healed all three and allowed them to release all of their emotions, all of their joy, and all of their praise in intimacy.

Sometimes your greatest healing may be in the solitude of your room or in a quiet corner of the church.

Healing and then giving

 

2 Chronicles 32:25, “But Hezekiah's heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him.”

Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, Manoah’s wife, and Elizabeth were all barren. Moses was driven from his people and Joseph was sold into slavery. We are crushed and left wounded. But why does that hurt often remain untouched? One reason might be to prepare us for God’s healing, not that we might be able to receive it, but so that we will be able to give even more once we do receive it.

God wants us to be a giving people. He gives us an ocean of blessings so that we might be a river of blessings to others. But there is a problem. James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…” What is the wrong motive? It is “that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” We want to keep and not to give. Pray not just for your own healing but that you might then comfort others.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

 4who comforts us in all our affliction 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.

 5For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

When we are hurting terribly we wonder why God is not there. But that is never true. God is always with us and when the time is right and we are ready, He will accomplish a great thing in our lives. It may not be what we expect or when we expect it, but this we can be assured, it will be better because God is faithful and compassionate.

When we see someone else in pain we can take our experience of God’s comfort and give it to them. We can share verses that meant a lot to us. We can be available to listen or just quietly be with them. We can pray with them. We can help them work out the situation. We knew pain and then we knew how wonderful God’s comfort can be. Our response then should be to share God’s with comfort with others.

God can use many means to heal

 

Oftentimes, and possibly even most times, God will choose a means other than Himself directly to heal.

Some of these means may be:

·         Counseling: Professional, Pastoral, and from other Christians

·         A Christian book

·         Deliverance through our own efforts: God did deliver the Israelites from Egypt

·         The Bible

·         By us changing our attitude

·         Through our own efforts to change the situation: ex. Making our work environment more righteous

·         We forgive

 

Exodus 4:31

“So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.”

Even in the most difficult of times He is worthy to receive all glory and honor and praise.

Discussion Questions

1)      In addition to the ones discussed above, what are some other assurances that God’s comfort means to us?

2)      Why do we find it easy to blame God for difficult circumstances?

3)      God does not physically hug us or whisper audible words of encourage in our ears. So what are some ways that we can actually experience the comfort of God?

4)      What are some ways that we can comfort others?

5)      Why is it that sometimes when we are in the lowest point of a trial that we do not seem to feel the comfort of God at all?

6)      How do our own afflictions enable us to better comfort other people?

7)      In the Bible, what are ways in which God comforted some people?

8)      Why is God so perfectly able to comfort us?

9)      If someone is in a tough situation that is entirely their own doing then when should we offer them comfort and when should we admonish them? Feel free to compose your own example of such a situation and how you would respond to it.

10)   What are some ways of how we might willfully or unconsciously refuse God’s comfort?

Situation

You oversee the “Mercy Ministry” which responsibilities include hospital visits, encouraging the discouraged and fainthearted, going to the homes of the incapacitated and helping out, and listening to those who need support. Todd is someone who views emotions as a weakness and whose response to everything is to either repent or to “just do something about it.” Inexplicably, he just joined your ministry. You are concerned that he will be overbearing and overwhelm those who are tottering, but you do not want to discourage his desire to serve. So you take him aside to give him some examples of situations where people might need comfort, encouragement, and support and what you would do for them and say to them. What might you say?

 


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Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: bob@disciplescorner.com