3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of sympathy (pity and mercy) and the God [Who is the Source] of every comfort (consolation and encouragement),
4 Who comforts (consoles and encourages) us in every trouble (calamity and affliction), so that we may also be able to comfort (console and encourage) those who are in any kind of trouble or distress, with the comfort (consolation and encouragement) with which we ourselves are comforted (consoled and encouraged) by God
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4 AMP)
I was reading today about these verses and as I looked up the word translated “comfort”, I was struck by Vine’s definition:
1. paraklesis (παράκλησις, 3874), means “a calling to one’s side” (para, “beside,” kaleo, “to call”
2. paramuthia (παραμυθία, 3889), primarily “a speaking closely to anyone” (para, “near,” muthos, “speech”), hence denotes “consolation, comfort,” with a greater degree of tenderness than No. 1
3. paramuthion (παραμύθιον, 3890) has the same meaning as No. 2, the difference being that paramuthia stresses the process or progress of the act, paramuthion the instrument as used by the agent
4. paregoria (παρηγορία, 3931), primarily “an addressing, address,” hence denotes “a soothing, solace,” Col. 4:11. A verbal form of the word signifies medicines which allay irritation (Eng., “paregoric”
5. parakletos (παράκλητος, 3875), lit., “called to one’s side,” i. e., to one’s aid, is primarily a verbal adjective, and suggests the capability or adaptability for giving aid. It was used in a court of justice to denote a legal assistant, counsel for the defense, an advocate; then, generally, one who pleads another’s cause, an intercessor, advocate, as in 1 John 2:1, of the Lord Jesus
In each of these instances of this word, what stands out is “personally coming to one’s aid and with great tenderness administering healing”. God does not “comfort” us from afar but comes to us while we are in the very midst of our trouble and distress. He does not stand off but comes along side to us, taking our side and, when necessary, gives us what we need to overcome whatever difficulty we face.
To illustrate this, I would like to share one particularly difficult time in my own life experience. I was a deacon and home group leader at a local church. The group I was leading was a collection of various people who were not accepted by the other groups for one reason or another and came to this group looking for acceptance. I was told by the Spirit of the Lord to “love” them as His family. I knew what He meant by this. These were the scattered, the rejected, the difficult ones that pat answers did not work with them. They all had their own problems that no one loved them enough to walk with them through those problems.
Throughout my years as a believer, these are the ones God has chosen to always send to me. At first, just like those that continue to do this today, I rejected them. It is not that I didn’t love them, I just did not know what to do. I wanted something easier but God chose, in His wisdom, to send to me those that others have “cast off” as being unteachable, incorrigible, too difficult, too hurt to forgive, etc. I think you may know some who fit into this category. After many years of this, God brought me to a church where, once I was a group leader, this was the kind of group of people He put together to reach out to. I loved it and I loved them. To me, these typified Jesus’ picture of what the kingdom of God is like. They are all, each one, fields that contain hidden treasure and if one is willing to endure it and search it out, those treasures can be unearthed and brought into the light of day for all to marvel.
With many years of learning how to love the unloveable, God’s Spirit guided me through each person’s individual issues to draw them out into His grace and mercies. I was privileged to witness God’s amazing grace many times over as each one was being drawn by His wisdom, His understanding and His compassion for them to leave their places of torment and find that freedom that others have more easily attained.
It was due to this success that we received a “visitor” to our group. Apparently, those who were not able to find success with these people, wanted to know how it was being done. I was so focused on the task the Lord had given me, I did not recognize what was happening. This “visitor” was the person who was placed “over” me and this home group in the hierarchy established by this church. We all welcomed him in as a brother in Christ and no one suspected his real motives for coming, least of all me. Only until I was called into the office and stood before my “elders” did I learn what was happening.
No one asked me what God was doing in the group. No one offered their appreciation for doing something no one else seemed to either want to do or could do. What I was confronted with was something that turned out to be completely unreasonable and without justification. You see, before these groups started, a manual was prepared and every potential home group leader was walked through this manual to learn what the goals of the church was seeking to accomplish. The manual was presented to us all as a ‘guideline’ and not a ‘rule book’. It’s purpose was to suggest a breakdown of how the meetings should be conducted UNTIL the leader learns how to be “led of the Spirit”.
More so than any of the other home group leaders, I KNEW what was in this manual because I was the one who took the information given to me by the church and designed and printed this manual. You see, I had my own business and was contracted by my church to produce this manual. So, I typed every word, added every design element and graphic throughout the booklet and had the books printed by a local printer. So my familiarity with the contents was as good as those who composed it. One thing that stood out to me was their constant emphasis that these were to be considered ‘guidelines’ only with the goal of allowing the Holy Spirit to guide the leader in the home group meetings.
What I heard when confronted by my “elders” was just the opposite. Those ‘guidelines’ became hard and fast ‘rules’, unbendable, unbreakable, uncompromising rules. The manual stated to spend the first 5-10 minutes in prayer, 10-15 minutes of musical worship, 15-30 minutes of message time followed by a short time for prayer and then fellowship. Again, these we’re not ‘rules’ but ‘guidelines’ for the inexperienced. I was VERY experienced with many years of leading others in small group dynamics and was taught by the very Holy Spirit we were all desired to learn to be led by.
However, this all changed because I not only ‘broke’ the rules but was, apparently, in defiance to the leadership because I broke those ‘rules’. Our home group meetings, many times, exceeded the 5-10 minutes in initial prayer time as the Holy Spirit oftentimes took over and brought a spirit of brokenness on His children and we, at times, exceeded this time frame by as much as 30 minutes to an hour which gave less time for the other parts of the meeting. Because I let the Holy Spirit guide me, He would do what He knew was needed for those attending the group for that particular day.
Some days, we would spend far too much time in prayer and ministry after a short message because the Holy Spirit was moving in our midst, touching lives and healing broken hearts. This was completely missed by our ‘visitor’ because he was more focused on the ‘time frame’ than what the Holy Spirit was doing. It became readily apparent to me that this fellow was far less concerned with what God was doing as he was with ‘finding fault’ with whatever I was doing.
At the end of this ‘meeting’ with the elders, I was instructed that I am to follow the manual’s ‘guidelines’ to the letter, regardless of what the Holy Spirit was doing and if I refused to obey them, I would be removed as home group leader and replaced by one who would follow their ‘guidelines’ more strictly.
To say this was devastating is putting it mildly. No one expressed any love or concern for those in the group who would be adversely affected. There was nothing I could say to change their minds for they did not call me into the office to ‘question’ me but to ‘judge’ me. Holy Spirit showed me not to answer them back.
I left that meeting with a heavy burden and sought the Lord as to what to do. He showed me to obey Him is better than to obey man. As a consequence, I did what He had shown me to do all along, without change. We received that same ‘visitor’ again to our group the following week and once he saw that I was not complying, he left early to report what he had witnessed. Result? I was removed from leading this group.
Again, to say I was devastated would be to put it mildly. When I got home, I was completely distraught, more so than at any other point in my life. I couldn’t stop crying. I knew the Lord wanted me to forgive them but I could not find the strength in me to even obey His word. In times past, I knew I had to forgive those who hurt me even if I couldn’t, I forgave because Jesus commanded it. But this time, I just did not have the strength to obey Him. This was not defiance but through this betrayal and false accusations, I was blindsided by those who were supposed to be my support. They were, after all, elders in our church and nothing they did or said reflected this.
My wife tried to comfort me and pray for me but I just could not be consoled. I had never felt so betrayed and so hurt as at this time. It was beyond any experience I had ever had even when you consider the fact that rejection has been my bread and butter my entire life. Nothing prepared me for this and there was no answer to be found.
Then, something extraordinary happened. While I was completely broken hearted and my wife’s arms wrapped around me while I cried incessantly, I ‘felt’ another pair of arms wrapping around me. I opened my eyes to see who was there and I could see no one else. Suddenly I knew these arms around me was Jesus Himself and I cried all the more. I cried out, “It hurts!” and immediately I heard His voice saying, “I know it hurts son.” Hearing these words brought a new torrent of tears and cries.
Just then, Jesus gave me a vision and in this, I ‘saw’ His love for those who betrayed me. I not only could ‘see’ His love but ‘experienced’ His love for them as well. My heart was filled to overflowing with a supernatural love for these who treated me so poorly. It was no longer an issue of ‘forgiveness’ but I was given God’s power to love them with His unconditional love. Jesus literally turned my ‘mourning’ into ‘laughter’ and wiped away every single tear by removing my hurt through His supernatural love.
The very next day was an evening service at church. I went and saw each one that was involved in that meeting, came to each one, asked their forgiveness and gave each one a meaningful hug. They all had the most mystified look on their faces as none of them were expecting this kind response from me. It wasn’t me anymore but the Love of God He poured into me that was loving them. I was not asked to return but by now, it no longer mattered as God showed me His love for His ‘lost children’ and they were each in His hands where no man can pluck them out. The work He gave me to do in their lives would remain and what He gave me to ‘start’ this work, He promised to ‘complete it’.
The definition of the word ‘comfort’ above truly fits what the Spirit of the Lord did with me.
1-My cries called out to Him and He came along side me
2-He spoke personally to me words of love, understanding and compassion
3-He never left my side until I was healed
4-He applied His healing balm to my wounded heart
5-He continued to be my advocate where I needed no longer to fear what they might do to me
When Jesus made that promise to never leave us or forsake us, He means it and no matter how difficult the issues of life we may face, He is ‘more than enough’ to come along side us, understand our distress, comfort us in the midst of it and bring healing to our wounded heart and emotions. What more can I say but to offer up to Him my worship and thanksgiving! Where no one could give me comfort, He not only came but gave me of Himself that which I did not have. His grace and love is beyond expression and I can take comfort in the fact that, one day, I shall be able to give to Him fully what I am limited in this body of flesh today.
It is my pray that you too will receive that small measure of hope that He has not forgotten you and has never left your side but is always ready to give you of His strength, even at your weakest point when you have no more strength. The only “comfort” I can give to you is that which He gave to me, HIS FAITHFULNESS to do that which He has promised and never fails to fulfill. Put your trust in Him and turn the cry of your heart towards He who loves you with a perfect love.