When I was a young boy, I fell and skinned my knee. I was scared because it hurt, but I was even more worried about what my mom would say. I was sure she’d be upset because I’d torn a hole in my new trousers. As I came through the door crying, she rushed to help me. Instead of being angry about my ruined pants, she hugged me and said everything was going to be all right. Then she cleaned the wound, applied some medicine, and blew on it to ease the sting.
That’s how the Lord wants to minister to us—as a mother comforts her child (Isa. 66:13). But we miss His comfort if we think He’s sitting in heaven just waiting for us to mess up so He can judge us. That would be like my mom meeting me at the door saying, “I told you not to run, but you disobeyed me and ruined your trousers. Now I’m going to punish you.” Do you see how inconsistent this picture is with a loving parent who wants the best for her child? In order to experience the fullness of God’s comfort, we need to understand who He is, how He works in our adversity, and what His consolation accomplishes.
The Trinity works together to minister to us.
The prophet Isaiah wrote that the Lord comforts His people and has compassion on the afflicted (49:13). God knows everything about your situation and cares for you right in the midst of your pain, confusion, and anxiety. When you don’t think you can take another step, He strengthens you to keep going and encourages you not to give up.
Since Jesus came to live on the earth, He understands and empathizes with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). That’s why He issued this invitation: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). In His interactions with people who hurt, He always demonstrated compassion. Christ didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11). He offered emotional and spiritual healing to the woman at the well (4:7-26) and restored the sight of a poor, blind beggar (Luke 18:35-43). Even when Jesus was about to return to His Father in heaven, He promised to send a Helper, or Comforter, to believers (John 14:16-17). The Holy Spirit is the one who dwells in us and comes alongside to aid and embolden us.
God never participates in our pity parties. They only magnify our problems and draw our focus away from Him.
Feelings can be misleading.
Why do we sometimes not feel consoled? One problem might be our misguided expectations. No one enjoys adversity and pain, so understandably, we want them to end as quickly as possible. If this doesn’t happen, we may react with disappointment, frustration, anger, or bitterness because God promised to comfort us, but we still feel awful and wonder, Where is He? Why isn’t He helping?
When I’m hurting, I sometimes say to God, “Lord, I can’t handle this anymore. I want out!” But I’ve never heard Him say, “Poor Charles! You’re right. This is too hard, and no one appreciates or cares for you.” God never participates in our pity parties. They only magnify our problems and draw our focus away from Him.
The Lord has a divine purpose for every hardship He allows in our lives. Psalm 119:67-77 describes a few of the benefits that come to us through trials. First of all, affliction draws us back to obedience after we’ve gone astray (v. 67). Second, in our suffering, we learn God’s statutes or principles (v. 71). This means we gain a greater understanding of His ways. Third, we recognize that the Lord’s judgments are right and in faithfulness He has afflicted us (v. 75). When we know and trust God’s nature, we’ll realize that He always works for our best, even through affliction. Then the psalmist says, “O may Your lovingkindness comfort me, according to Your word to Your servant” (v. 76). Notice that God’s comfort comes through both His love for us and His Word.
Do you find consolation in God’s love for you even in the midst of your pain? Trials have a way of drawing our attention downward onto our circumstances, causing further discouragement, anxiety, or even anger. However, if we deliberately set our minds on the promises in God’s Word, we’ll find reassurance to sustain us in our afflictions.
When we gain a scriptural perspective of who God is and what He is doing, we’re in a prime position to experience His aid. That’s why Paul could call Him “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3). If he hadn’t ever suffered, he would never have discovered the power of the Lord’s heartening and sustaining solace. Through all his trials, Paul learned three important truths:
1. God is enough. Our heavenly Father comforts us “in all our affliction” (v. 4). For a believer, no situation is beyond the reach of His consoling presence—even if your spouse says, “I don’t love you anymore” and walks away. Or if, after faithfully working 35 years for the same company, you are laid off. Or if your child receives a diagnosis of terminal cancer. In all these agonizing situations, God is with you to relieve the awful sense of sorrow, brokenness, and despair.
When we know and trust God’s nature, we’ll realize that He always works for our best, even through affliction.
Our biggest problem in dark valleys is that we struggle to believe God is enough. When Paul was suffering with a “thorn in the flesh,” the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Paul’s response is amazing: “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” Because he believed what the Lord said, he found comfort even though the pain was still there.
2. God is equipping us to care for others. Another truth Paul learned is that having experienced the Lord’s support in our suffering, we are then able to “comfort those who are in any affliction” (1:4). Although He employs various means to deliver encouragement, people are a favorite instrument. After walking through challenges, we are qualified to share God’s love by cheering on the discouraged, lifting up the burdened, and reaching out to the hurting.
3. God’s comfort results in patient endurance. It’s only natural to want the Lord to fix our problems and heal our pain, but Paul says that God’s comfort enables us to patiently endure whatever we’re going through (v. 6). He may not change the situation, but He does change us through it. And this, my friend, is something that should compel us to view our difficulties in a completely different light.
That’s why the best response to adversity is to say, “Lord, I’m all Yours. Do whatever You choose with me and my situation. I’m trusting You to encourage and comfort me through this.” Instead of letting anguish drive you to despair, let it draw you to the Lord. He’ll strengthen your faith with His Word, shower you with His love, and encourage you to trust that His grace is sufficient for your need.
Adapted from the sermon “The God of All Comfort” by Charles F. Stanley