One of the offices of the Holy Spirit is “Comforter.” In my last post, a question came up about comforting the wounded, specifically, what does that look like in the Body of Christ? What a great question! I don’t have an answer exactly, but I do have a response. I’d like to share a bit about how I have been comforted in the Body of Christ.
First, let’s all get on the same page with the definition of comfort: to give strength and hope to; to ease the grief or trouble of. That’s fairly straightforward. In the Bible, “comfort” is quite pervasive and used in several different contexts. That has absolutely been my experience.
Up until a few years ago, comfort – to me – meant affection, warmth, a hug, affirmation . . . basically me being petted in some way. Imagine my shock when I first learned that chastening was a comfort.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4 HCSB
This verse came alive for me because of how the Lord had dealt with me. I was in torment – a true agony of despair – and unable to get out of it, because I was so enthralled with myself. I was quite convinced that I needed to be loved and comforted. And I did! Just not the way I was demanding to be loved and comforted. Instead, the Lord WRATHFULLY confronted me through Martha. We’re talking Old Testament, Dread of Isaac chastening here. Greatest comfort of my life since it freed me. It’s not hyperbole when I say that I love the God of Wrath.
How about judgment? Can the judgment of God be a comfort to us?
Lord, I remember Your judgments from long ago
and find comfort.
Psalm 119:52 HCSB
– walk by the light of your self-made fire
and of the sparks that you have kindled
[for yourself, if you will]! But this shall you have from My hand:
you shall lie down in grief and in torment.
Isaiah 50:11b Amplified
I remember with complete clarity when the Lord gave me that last one – BOOM. There’s nothing quite so terrifying as receiving confirmation from the mouth of the Living God that your torments are real – and the result of His Hand of Judgment. It is my Father’s mercy and enormous LOVE that kept me in grief and torment; He would NOT let me be happy and content in my wounded, sick, self-made prison of darkness.
Now, I have also been comforted in the more traditional sense of the word. I have been held and encouraged and hugged and delighted in. I chose the examples of judgment and chastening to illustrate that I don’t KNOW what I need. I demanded to be loved and comforted the way I WANTED. But God knew what I needed. My Father knew best how “to ease the grief or trouble of” my heart.
My experience has been that comfort and healing tend to go together. When I need a hug, my Comforter hugs me. And when I am being poisoned by a festering bullet of bitterness in my gut, my Comforter loves me enough to hold me down, slice me open, and remove the bullet. Comfort doesn’t always look the way I think it should, but that’s due to my limited vision and says nothing about the true character or loving nature of my Comforter.
This is my comfort in my affliction:
Your promise has given me life.
Psalm 119:50 HCSB