Comfort can mean many things. Most of us would like to live in comfort. For some of us that means four walls, indoor plumbing, and a temperature-controlled environment, under a leak-free roof. Some of us might even be willing to negotiate on some of those for other amenities that are more necessary in our mind. Actually, that type of comfort is fairly easy to find.
It is the type of comfort that heals those wounds of the soul and the heart that is much harder to lay hold of. My guess is that many of you have spent some sleepless nights in grief, anxiety, hurt, despair, and confusion. Some of us self-medicate out of desperation for relief and rest. However, when we awake we find our issues are still there to haunt us, to lay claim on our time and emotions, to sap our strength and our spirit.
2 Corinthians 7:4 reads: “I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly comforted; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.”
The original word for comfort is used in many contexts in the Bible. It speaks of the type of comfort a friend seeks to give in our time of need. In the context above, it has the idea of standing alongside and supporting someone in the hour of need or weakness. It is the word used in some places for the Holy Spirit, Himself. In one context it is the calling or summoning another in time of help. In the context we speak about here, it is the response to that calling or summoning.
The word literally means, “to invite alongside.” The Holy Spirit invites us to walk alongside Him in our hour of need. We are the person with unsteady step. We are the blind in need of a guide. The Spirit is the one who calls out to us and says, “Come, walk with me.”
Not only will that Spirit give us support for weak legs, but he will give us direction for confusion of mind, soul, spirit, and heart.
I have thought about the image of a comforter. I have thought about the image of what it would look like to receive comfort. Most of us, especially men, are fixers. Confronted with anger, depression, grief, hopelessness, etc., we look for a solution to the problem. We are doers.
When I was a hospital chaplain I had to come to the realization that there were many situations far beyond my control. Originally, in some situations I thought anxiety or fear were the result of a lack of information. So, as often as it was appropriate, I became information central. I harassed ICU, Trauma, and ER nurses and doctors for information I could pass on to the family and friends. Often, it was not the kind of information they wanted to hear, even when it was, it did little to provide comfort.
I decided Scripture passages would ease people’s minds, so I armed myself with all the passages of comfort my mind could hold. It didn’t take long to recognize that I was simply invalidating the person’s fear, grief, depression and questioning their faith in the process as well.
Finally, one night, I encountered a situation so broken, so beyond any help or hope, so beyond any “skills” I had led myself to believe I had, that I could say nothing, do nothing, and even pray nothing. I just sat there with the family stunned as they saw hopes and dreams and futures slip away in their helplessness.
When it was all over they thanked me for “being there for them.” My slow wittedness finally opened up and realized that was all they wanted – someone to watch, to stand guard over their grief, not to judge it or deny their right to experience it, but to walk through that dark valley by their side, to take a journey that I could have avoided.
I have chosen the picture of the dog comforting the woman, Arthur Wardle’s – A Comforting Friend in her Moment of Grief. I am a “dog person.” Dogs are so there for you. They simply pour out themselves in your hour of need. Generally, they will stay there as long as you need them.
Before I turn this into a piece about dogs let me remind you of God’s Spirit going where he does not have to, but where He wants to, to meet you in and usher you through your darkest hour. He communes with your spirit on a level you cannot always hear and may not always see, but is always there.
Rev. Craig C. Krueger