Difficulties and adversity are a part of life. There is no escape from it, whether a person is a believer in Jesus Christ or someone who has never trusted in Jesus Christ for his or her eternal salvation. It is therefore essential to know what to do in the midst of hardship and tribulation, so that it does not crush a person beyond repair. The believer in Jesus Christ, though, has a resource in afflictions that the unbeliever does not have: the comfort of God. Because of his or her relationship to God, there is access to all the blessings of God, and one of these blessings is his comfort in the midst of distress. Moreover, this is a normal ministry of God to all who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It isn’t something reserved for the leaders, for the most spiritual, or for those with a spotless reputation. It is for all who have trusted in Jesus Christ and will seek God for it.
The unknown author of Psalm 147 saw this comforting ministry in the life of the nation of Israel. This Psalm seems to have been written in the restoration of the Israelites, the remnant of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in particular, to the land of Israel sometime after 515 BC or so. This is what he wrote:
“He heals the brokenhearted,
and binds up their wounds”
God brings his healing comfort to his people when they are suffering. He wants to do this, because he is not a God who is far away, cool and detached, watching but doing nothing, but a God who is ready and willing to help in whatever circumstances cause his people anguish and pain.
God is the perfect comforter for his people. There is no one more capable, and his capability to comfort is far above human capability. The Psalmist refers to God with the one little word, “He”, and by this he means Yahweh, the God of Israel, the God who had freed his people from the Egyptian bondage. He had recently restored them back to the land of Israel after a time of exile that had caused them great heartache, like another unknown Psalmist expressed in the lament of Psalm 137. He is also the God of the Bible, the God who some centuries later entered human history and brought salvation from sin and death through Jesus Christ. The first step to understanding God as the perfect comforter, then, is to remember the ways in which he has already acted and who he has revealed himself to be, and this will turn doctrine into medicine for the broken hearted.
The love and compassion of God, then, makes him always disposed to bring comfort to his people in their afflictions. He is never out of the mood, and never unwilling to comfort! There may be those who are involved in our churches who stand aside as rubberneckers to the hardships of others, but God is loving and compassionate no matter what the circumstances, and his people can count on that always and in all circumstances.
The fact that God is everywhere, means that he is always available to comfort his people in their pains. His office hours are every moment! No one is ever out of the reach of his care! Just Jonah tried to flee from the LORD but was never out of his reach, so we will never be out of his reach when we run to him in the midst of our troubles! People will often not be available, but God always is.
Moreover, the faithfulness of God means that he is always reliable to comfort us when we are in need of his help. He will always do what he has said he will do! There is not one iota of insincerity in his promises. Again, the people around us will often be unreliable and fail us when things get too rough or uncomfortable for them, but God will always be reliable to his Word.
Even more, God has perfect understanding of all our circumstances and all our disappointments. He is all knowing and all wise, and that means that no one need ever have to explain it to him! There will never be any misunderstanding with him, and no matter what any one of us goes through, there will never be any kind of distorted picture with God. Certainly people often need explanations to be of any kind of help, and they will often misunderstand, but God will always know what is happening without anyone needing to explain it to him.
Because God is all powerful, then, it means that he can bring infinite help to us in all our distresses. Isaiah wrote, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear” (Isaiah 59:1). Therefore we can expect God to do all that is possible on our behalf when we are in trouble.
Finally, because brings us comfort through Jesus Christ, it means that he has a perfect sympathy for us in our distresses. Many times, when we are hurting, we want sympathy and understanding at least as much as the ending of our trouble. And through entering our world through his Son Jesus Christ, in his human life Jesus experienced everything necessary to give him a perfect sympathy with our own experiences: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Therefore, when we are in distress, go to God first. Why would you go anywhere else?
- Why would you go anywhere else when you have such a great God who will stand by you? God will never disappoint you.
- Why would you go anywhere else when you have his gracious and explicit invitations to come to him? “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (I Peter 5:7).
- Why would you go anywhere else when you have his promise to help you when you call on him? “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15).
All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.