Summary: God does not [just] comfort us to make us comfortable. He comforts us to be comforters.
Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.
The problems began when Chippie’s owner decided to clean Chippie’s cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She’d barely said "hello" when "ssssopp!" Chippie got sucked in. The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie -- still alive, but stunned.
Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the shower, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer… and blasted the pet with hot air! Poor Chippie never knew what hit him!
A few days after the trauma, the reporter who’d initially written about the event contacted Chippie’s owner to see how the bird was recovering. "Well," she replied, "Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore. He just sits and stares." It’s hard not to see why! Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . That’s enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart. (Max Lucado; ‘In the Eye of the Storm’; Word Publishing 1991, p. 11)
Having the song taken out of our hearts because of trial or trouble can leave us feeling fed up, sorry for ourselves and not exactly spiritual. Probably, it doesn’t leave us feeling like reaching out to others in need; but it is during or after those times that we are most able to help those around us who are hurting, struggling or in need of a compassionate listener.
John Henry Jowett (1841-1923) said that “God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.”
St Paul writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Cor 1: 3-4).
Today is Mother’s Day. Thank God for Mothers! God is a Father of compassion – a tender, loving parent - and a God of all comfort. We read in Psalm 103:13-14 that “as a Father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who [honour] him”; in Psalm 23:4 “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me”; in Psalm 71:20-21 “though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honour and comfort me once again.”
The prophet Isaiah spoke these words: (40:1-2) “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for”; and later Isaiah spoke words that Jesus would also use (61:1-2, Luke 4:18), “The Spirit of the Lord is on me …to comfort all who mourn.”
God’s comfort is like a loving father’s compassion, like the comfort of a shepherd tending his sheep, like the voice of tenderness towards wayward children, and like a friend who sits with us during bereavement.
Queen Victoria heard that the wife of a labourer had lost her baby. Having suffered deep sorrow herself, she wanted to express her sympathy. She called on the bereaved mother and spent time with her. Later neighbours asked what the queen said. “Nothing,” replied the grieving mother. “She simply put her hands on mine, and we silently wept together.”
How does God’s comfort come to us?
Comfort comes through reading the Bible. Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
Comfort comes through obeying God. Psalm 119:143, “Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight.”
Comfort comes from our relationship with Jesus. Hebrews 2:18, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” When Lazarus, a good friend of Jesus died, we read a short and deeply comforting statement of Jesus’ reaction to grief: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). In other words Jesus can comfort because he has been through it. He knew pain, bereavement, suffering, and severe stress to the point of sweating blood (Luke 22:44). He knows! Jesus sympathises and helps us.