Passing on the Comfort of God
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Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.—2 Corinthians 1:41
I believe that God wants to encourage people, but a lot of times He needs us to do it. And, believe it or not, we do have what others need. We have God’s love—that is powerful! We have the Spirit of love and the words of love! Our life can be influential because of the power of our words. Our words don’t need to be profound or eloquent—just simple words that meet a person’s need for love, hope, significance, or comfort.
If you feel like you have no time, no energy, no expertise, or little to give, don’t worry; that’s common to many of us. But we can all give through our words of encouragement, through which our lives can have influence, and we can spread God’s love wherever we go. In just five minutes or less, we can make a difference at a bus stop, on the metro, crossing the street, at the shop, at work, at school, online, going for a walk, and the list goes on.
A question we can ask ourselves: “What can I say to this person that will help them in some way?—Lift their spirits, brighten their day, make them feel appreciated, valued, worthwhile? How can I leave this person feeling good about themselves, that what they’re doing counts?” And then let’s ask the Lord to help us to have the faith to say whatever He lays on our heart to say.—Maria Fontaine2
Why does God lay trouble upon His people and comfort them in it? It is that He may make them comforters of others—“that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble.” A man who has never had any trouble is very awkward when he tries to comfort troubled hearts. Hence, the minister of Christ, if he is to be of much use in God’s service, must have great trouble. “Prayer, meditation, and affliction,” says Melanchthon, “are the three things that make the minister of God.” There must be prayer. There must be meditation and there must be affliction. You cannot pronounce the promise correctly in the ears of the afflicted unless you, yourself, have known its preciousness in your own hour of trial.
It is God’s will that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, should often work by men according to that ancient word of His, “Comfort you, comfort you, My people, says your God. Speak you comfortably to Jerusalem.” These comforting men are to be made—they are not born so—and they have to be made by passing through the furnace, themselves. They cannot comfort others unless they have had trouble and have been comforted in it. … Some have the will to comfort the troubled, but they have not the power to do it. “Miserable comforters are you all,” said Job to his friends! And the same has been said to many of those who have really tried to comfort the sorrowing, but who, in the process, have put their fingers into the open wounds and so made them worse instead of better. The able comforter must be a man who knows both the trial and the promise that is suited to meet it.
Beside that, we are to be ready comforters, for we are “to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” Experimental knowledge helps a man to speak with power to the afflicted soul. He who has taken a certain medicine and proved the benefit of it is the man to recommend it to another.
Hence, the Lord often passes His ministers through trials which they would never have to endure if it were not for their people. Even as upon the Chief Shepherd, all the wanderings of the flock had to be laid, so, in a very minor sense, the wanderings of the flock must be borne by the under-shepherd, or else he cannot be a comforter to them.
Dear friends, the next time you get into any trouble, I would recommend you to take notes of it and to ask yourself, when it is over, “How did God comfort me?” Lay that cordial up in store, because, one of these days, you will need that comfort again, or, if not, you will meet with somebody who is in just the same fix as you were in—and you will be able to say, “I know what will help you, for I have it down in black and white at home, how God helped me in a trouble exactly like yours.”—Charles Spurgeon3
Kumiko is 24 years old. Her older brother was killed in a car accident a few years ago, and her parents divorced. Because these things happened, she decided not to believe in God anymore. When I met her, she was very discouraged and only talked negatively about her life and other people.
She started phoning me whenever she was having a hard time with her friends or colleagues. Most of the calls were after midnight and lasted for over an hour. Sometimes she would cry and say, “I should kill myself. There’s no use in living.” I would listen and try to encourage her and tell her that no matter what others said about her, Jesus loved her and saw all her good points. I told her that someday her tender nature and other gifts would win out, so she shouldn’t let them get clouded over by the seemingly bad things. I also told her that I would pray for her, and I did.
Then one night she prayed with me to receive Jesus as her Savior. After that, Kumiko gradually changed. Eventually she told me that she had started crying out to Jesus whenever she had troubles or felt low. We saw each other again recently, and she was so different! She could laugh about her immature reactions to things that had upset her so terribly before. Then she told me something that touched me deeply: About a month earlier, she had been in the depths of despair and had decided to end her life. At midnight she had driven to the sea, and was about to throw herself in. But suddenly she thought of me, and started praying to Jesus. She changed her mind and made it safely home. I was so happy and relieved to hear that!
Often it had not been easy for me to listen to Kumiko go on and on about her problems, especially when I was really tired or trying to finish some pressing work before bed. … At first, she didn’t seem to be changing or growing spiritually, but the Lord kept telling me that she didn’t have anybody else to encourage her or help her. Through this, I think I learned more than Kumiko about the greatness of Jesus’ love. He is teaching me to have more love, patience, and mercy for others, especially those who are lost and looking for real love and answers for their questions.—Akiko Matsumoto4
God can reach His hand down from the heavens and touch a life. He can with His arm span the distance of space and encircle the tired and weary to His loving breast. His arm of love is not shortened that He cannot bless the lost and hopeless. [But] He uses those who are the nearest by to lend a helping hand, to comfort, to lift from despair, to stroke the fevered brow of discontent. For how can that discouraged and fretful soul experience the love of God except through the love of one who is beside him ready to love? How can that disheartened and downcast soul feel the touch of encouragement and peace except by the touch of the closest hand reaching out in tender concern? It may be a friend or a stranger, but God uses hands which are consecrated to Him for touching lives. You may say that it is only another human being. But what is meant by God if it is not love? God also speaks to us through other human voices.
Let me tell you of a dear friend in distress and loneliness of soul. She felt God no longer near. She had prayed and beseeched Him for a touch of His hand once more in her life. “How can He leave me?” she queried. Her friend leaned near and whispered, “Just pray to Him and ask Him to touch you. He’ll put His hand on YOU.”
In anguish of soul she began to pray once more. Suddenly she felt the hand of her Heavenly Father touching her and she cried out in exultation, “He has touched me! What joy fills my soul again! What warmth floods over me! But you know, it felt just like it was your hand.”
“It was my hand,” replied her friend.
A look of complete dismay and disappointment rushed across her face. “Your hand?”
“Of course. Do you actually think there’d be a real live hand reaching down through the ceiling to touch you? God just used the hand that was closest!”—Mrs. Charles E. Cowman5
Published on Anchor April 2014. Read by Tina Miles.
Music by Michael Dooley.
2 Originally published May 2011.
3 Delivered by Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, June 15, 1882.
4 One Heart at a Time (Aurora Production, 2010).
5 Streams in the Desert, Volume 2 (Zondervan, 1977).