Writing to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul offered this inspired benediction: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 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 1:3-4; ESV).”
God is not just one source of comfort out of many. The Bible declares Him to be the God of all comfort, the originator of comfort and the ultimate source from which comfort flows to the afflicted.
God is not the source of false comfort: those lies, crutches and fabrication which people utilize to move from one moment to another with greater ease and less mental anguish. God does not comfort people with false hope, but speaking the truth in love, He urges men to turn from their sin and idols so as to escape the coming destruction.
There was an occasion when the aforementioned apostle Paul, having written so eloquently to the Corinthians church about comfort, had reason to speak with a certain Antonius Felix, the procurator of Judea. We read concerning this: “After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, ‘Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you (Acts 24:24-25; ESV).’”
Felix was by all accounts, a wicked, cruel, and corrupt man, whose main interest in Paul was not theological, but financial (cf. Acts 24:26). Paul, as God’s spokesman, offered Felix no comfort, but instead spoke to the man concerning things that made him alarmed and discomforted. Until Felix changed his ways, turned to Christ, and found salvation, there was no comfort that could be legitimately given him.
Yet for those who come to Him, God does indeed offer comfort. Thus did Christ invite, “come to me all you who are heavily burdened and I shall give you rest (Matthew 11:28),” and thus did He promise, “blessed are all those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).”
Where does this comfort come from and what is its nature?
God offers us comfort in mercy and salvation. Judgment comes upon sin, but God is willing to save us from our sins, through the blood of Christ, when we repent of those sins and turn to Christ to have those sins washed away (cf. Acts 22:16). “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).”
God offers us comfort in love and grace. Grace, distinct from mercy, indicates God’s favor and approval. God does not just forgive us and move on. Rather, God takes those He forgives, brings them into His family, gives them gifts, and promises them eternal life. In Christ we have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (cf. Ephesians 1:3) and we have these blessings, even as we have salvation, because God does love His children and He will care for them (cf. Matthew 7:7-11).
God offers us comfort in hope. There is coming a day when the dead in Christ shall rise, and having risen from the dead, they shall ascend with Christ into an eternal dwelling, where they shall dwell with Christ forever. No matter what we are experiencing now, there is comfort in knowing that in Christ things will be better (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
God offers us comfort in truth. God cannot lie. When He warns of danger and judgment to come, He speaks the truth. But likewise, when God promises salvation, the certainty of that promise gives us security and comfort. It is an, “anchor of the soul,” sure and steadfast (cf. Hebrews 6:17-20).
And, then finally, God offers us comfort in fellowship. Notice Paul’s admonition that God comforts us so that we can in turn comfort each other. God, in the beginning, knew that it was not good for man to be alone (cf. Genesis 2:18) and so He gave us one another, creating a family. Likewise in Christ, He brings us into His family, teaching us to share His love, as we learn it, with one another.
In all these ways, God gives us true comfort in the midst of trials and afflictions. Comfort able to withstand all that life might throw our way.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.