I have known the comfort of God. I have known that His comfort is unique and special and beyond reason. I have felt His comfort over small losses and huge crises. I have listened to people tell me about their most challenging experience on this earth and say that they would not change it if it meant missing out of the spiritual lessons learned. I knew this, but I couldn't articulate why it was until my daughter explained it to me. She was reading 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 which says:
“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 receive from God.”
The Scripture was made clearer to her by JI Packer: “This is a far stronger statement than might appear, because the English word ‘comfort,’ both as a noun and as a verb, has lost so much of its meaning. When, back in the sixteenth century, it was chosen for the translation of these verses, it meant what the Greek verb means, namely, renewal of strength through encouragement. Today, when comfort suggests only some form of cushioning, making comfortable, and reducing pain, it is easy to miss the true thrust of what Paul is saying. Paul is praising the Ffather for His endless supply of strength to keep us going and rising to every occasion, and Paul is assuring the Corinthians hereby that though they may think of him as down, he is not out yet.”
Rachel, my daughter, commented: “I realized I have been getting it all wrong. I've been expecting/wanting the Father to take away pain, to soothe me with some celestial balm...but that is not how He works. I've been upset and angry with Him when He doesn't work that way. He IS providing comfort...it's just through strength/encouragement...more of Himself. And then verse four goes on to talk about how we provide that same comfort for others. Obviously that makes more sense...we can't expect other friends to take away our sufferings/afflictions, so we do strengthen each other through encouragement.”
I had never looked at those verses in that way before. I knew that God’s comfort reached down into the depths of me and brought me hope, but I never realized what was actually happening when I was comforted by God’s comfort. His comfort does go far beyond reducing pain. I am actually transformed and made stronger when I receive comfort from God. No one else can have this effect on me. My friends and family are great in comfort. They are there to give a hug or tell me they are sorry. It feels good to know that you are not alone. There is relief in knowing that someone else knows your burden and feels for the pain you are experiencing. Human comfort is good and needed. Human comfort doesn't transform me like God’s comfort.
You know you have received this comfort when you are able to tell someone else about your experience. Your presence becomes a comfort. As you share your experience of God being enough for you during your darkest times, you point people to the God of all comforts who gives comfort that sustains us in a fallen world.