Where Can True Comfort Be Found?
“The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . comforts us in all our tribulation.”
1. What circumstances may cause people to feel a great need for comfort?
CRIPPLING illness may leave a person feeling that his life is in ruins. Earthquakes, storms, and famine leave people destitute. War may result in the death of family members, may destroy homes, or may force homeowners to abandon possessions. Injustice may make people feel that there is no place to which they can turn for relief. Those affected by such woes are desperately in need of comfort. Where can it be found?
2. Why is the comfort provided by Jehovah unique?
2 Some individuals and organizations endeavor to provide comfort. Kind words are appreciated. Physical relief efforts help to meet short-term needs. But only Jehovah, the true God, can undo all the damage and provide the sort of help that is needed so that such calamities will never occur again. Regarding him, the Bible says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those in any sort of tribulation through the comfort with which we ourselves are being comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4) How does Jehovah comfort us?
Getting at the Root of the Problems
3. How does the comfort that God gives get at the root of mankind’s problems?
3 The entire human family inherited imperfection as a result of Adam’s sin, and that gives rise to countless problems that eventually lead to death. (Romans 5:12) The situation is aggravated by the fact that Satan the Devil is “the ruler of this world.” (John 12:31; 1 John 5:19) Jehovah did more than express sorrow over the unhappy situation that confronts humankind. He sent his only-begotten Son as a ransom to provide deliverance, and He told us that we can be relieved of the effects of Adamic sin if we exercise faith in His Son. (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10) God also foretold that Jesus Christ, who has been entrusted with all authority in heaven and on earth, will destroy Satan and his entire wicked system of things.
4. (a) What has Jehovah provided to strengthen our confidence in his promises of relief? (b) How does Jehovah help us to discern when the relief will come?
4 To strengthen our confidence in his promises, God has preserved abundant evidence that whatever he foretells comes to pass. (Joshua 23:14) He included in the Bible a record of what he has done to deliver his servants in the face of humanly impossible odds. (Exodus 14:4-31; 2 Kings 18:13–19:37) And through Jesus Christ, Jehovah demonstrated that his purpose includes healing people of “every sort of infirmity,” even resurrecting the dead. (Matthew 9:35; 11:3-6) When will all of this take place? In answer, the Bible contains a description of the last days of this old system, which precede God’s new heavens and new earth. Jesus’ description matches the times we are living in.
Comfort to a People in Distress
5. When giving comfort to ancient Israel, to what did Jehovah direct their attention?
5 From the way that Jehovah dealt with ancient Israel, we learn how he brought comfort to them in times of distress. He reminded them of the kind of God he is. This strengthened their confidence in his promises. Jehovah caused his prophets to use vivid contrasts between him as the true and living God and idols, which could help neither themselves nor their worshipers. (Isaiah 41:10; 46:1; Jeremiah 10:2-15) When telling Isaiah, “Comfort, comfort my people,” Jehovah moved his prophet to use illustrations and descriptions of His works of creation in order to emphasize the greatness of Jehovah as the only true God.
6. What indications did Jehovah sometimes give as to when deliverance would be experienced?
6 On occasion, Jehovah gave comfort by specifying a time, near or distant, when his people would be delivered. As the deliverance from Egypt drew near, he told the oppressed Israelites: “One plague more I am going to bring upon Pharaoh and Egypt. After that he will send you away from here.” (Exodus 11:1) When a three-nation alliance invaded Judah in the days of King Jehoshaphat, Jehovah told them that He would intervene in their behalf “tomorrow.” (2 Chronicles 20:1-4, 14-17) Their deliverance from Babylon, on the other hand, was recorded by Isaiah nearly 200 years in advance, and further details were provided through Jeremiah almost a hundred years before the deliverance occurred. How encouraging those prophecies were to God’s servants when the time for deliverance drew near!
7. What was often included in the promises of deliverance, and how did this affect faithful people in Israel?
7 It is of note that the promises that brought comfort to God’s people frequently contained information about the Messiah. (Isaiah 53:1-12) Generation after generation, this imparted hope to faithful people as they faced numerous trials. At Luke 2:25, we read: “Look! there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was righteous and reverent, waiting for Israel’s consolation [or, comfort; actually, the coming of the Messiah], and holy spirit was upon him.” Simeon knew the Messianic hope set out in the Scriptures, and expectation of its fulfillment shaped his life. He did not understand how it would all work out, and he personally did not live to see the foretold salvation become a reality, but he rejoiced when he identified the One who would prove to be God’s “means of saving.”
Comfort Provided Through Christ
8. How did the help that Jesus gave compare with what many people thought they needed?
8 As Jesus Christ carried out his earthly ministry, he did not always provide the help that the people thought they needed. Some longed for a Messiah who would free them from the hated yoke of Rome. But Jesus did not advocate revolution; he told them to “pay back . . . Caesar’s things to Caesar.” (Matthew 22:21) God’s purpose involved far more than liberating people from being dominated by some political regime. The people wanted to make Jesus king, but he said that he would “give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28; John 6:15) It was not yet the time for him to assume kingship, and the authority for him to rule was going to be conferred on him by Jehovah, not by restless crowds.
9. (a) What was the message of comfort that Jesus proclaimed? (b) How did Jesus demonstrate the relevance of the message to the situations that people were personally facing? (c) For what did Jesus’ ministry lay a basis?
9 The comfort that Jesus brought was embodied in “the good news of the kingdom of God.” This was the message Jesus proclaimed wherever he went. (Luke 4:43) He emphasized the relevance of that message to people’s everyday problems by demonstrating what he as the Messianic Ruler would do for mankind. He gave suffering individuals renewed reason to live by restoring sight and speech (Matthew 12:22; Mark 10:51, 52), curing disabled limbs (Mark 2:3-12), cleansing fellow Israelites of loathsome diseases (Luke 5:12, 13), and relieving them of other grievous sicknesses. (Mark 5:25-29) He brought great relief to grieving family members by raising their children from the dead. (Luke 7:11-15; 8:49-56) He demonstrated his ability to control dangerous storms and to satisfy the needs of large crowds for food. (Mark 4:37-41; 8:2-9) Moreover, Jesus taught them principles of living that could help them to deal constructively with existing problems and that would fill hearts with hope for righteous rulership under the Messiah. Thus as Jesus carried on his ministry, he not only comforted those who listened with faith but also laid a basis for encouraging people for thousands of years to come.
10. What is made possible as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice?
10 More than 60 years after Jesus had laid down his human life in sacrifice and been resurrected to heavenly life, the apostle John was inspired to write: “My little children, I am writing you these things that you may not commit a sin. And yet, if anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one. And he is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” (1 John 2:1, 2) Because of the benefits of Jesus’ perfect human sacrifice, we are greatly comforted. We know that we can have forgiveness of sins, a clean conscience, an approved relationship with God, and the prospect of eternal life.
The Holy Spirit as Comforter
11. What further provision for comfort did Jesus promise before his death?
11 While with his apostles on the last evening before his sacrificial death, Jesus spoke about yet another provision that his heavenly Father had made to comfort them. Jesus said: “I will request the Father and he will give you another helper [comforter; Greek, pa·raʹkle·tos] to be with you forever, the spirit of the truth.” Jesus assured them: “The helper, the holy spirit, . . . will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you.” (John 14:16, 17, 26) How did the holy spirit actually bring comfort to them?
12. How has the role of the holy spirit as an aid to the memory of Jesus’ disciples helped to bring comfort to many?
12 The apostles had received extensive teaching by Jesus. They would certainly never forget the experience, but would they remember what he actually said? Would important instructions be lost because of their imperfect memories? Jesus assured them that the holy spirit would ‘bring back to their minds all the things he had told them.’ Thus, some eight years after Jesus’ death, Matthew was able to write the first Gospel, in which he recorded Jesus’ heartwarming Sermon on the Mount, his numerous illustrations concerning the Kingdom, and his detailed discussion of the sign of his presence. More than 50 years later, the apostle John was able to write a reliable account filled with extensive details about the last few days of Jesus’ earthly life. How encouraging these inspired records have been right down to our day!
13. How did the holy spirit serve as a teacher to early Christians?
13 More than simply bringing words back to their minds, the holy spirit taught the disciples and guided them to a fuller understanding of God’s purpose. While Jesus was yet with his disciples, he told them things that they did not then clearly understand. Later, however, moved by holy spirit, John, Peter, James, Jude, and Paul wrote explanations of further developments in God’s purpose. Thus the holy spirit served as a teacher, giving valuable assurance of divine direction.
14. In what ways did the holy spirit help Jehovah’s people?
14 The miraculous gifts of the spirit also helped to make clear that God had transferred his favor from fleshly Israel to the Christian congregation. (Hebrews 2:4) The fruitage of that spirit in the lives of individuals was also an important factor in identifying those who truly were Jesus’ disciples. (John 13:35; Galatians 5:22-24) And the spirit strengthened the members of that congregation to be bold and fearless witnesses.
Help When Under Extreme Pressure
15. (a) What pressures have been faced by Christians past and present? (b) Why may those who give encouragement sometimes be in need of receiving it?
15 All who are devoted to Jehovah and who are loyal to him experience persecution of some sort. (2 Timothy 3:12) However, many Christians have come under pressure that is extremely severe. In modern times, some have been hounded by mobs and thrown into concentration camps, prisons, and labor camps under inhuman conditions. Governments have taken on the role of active persecutors, or they have allowed lawless elements to run wild with impunity. Further, Christians have faced grave health problems or serious family crises. Pressure may also be experienced by a mature Christian who helps one fellow believer after another to deal with difficult situations. In such cases, the one who gives encouragement may also be in need of receiving it.
16. When David was under great pressure, how did he receive help?
16 When King Saul was pursuing David to kill him, David turned to God as his Helper: “O God, hear my prayer,” he begged. “In the shadow of your wings I take refuge.” (Psalm 54:2, 4; 57:1) Did David receive help? Yes, he did. During that period, Jehovah used Gad the prophet and Abiathar the priest to convey direction to David, and He used Jonathan the son of Saul to strengthen the young man. (1 Samuel 22:1, 5; 23:9-13, 16-18) Jehovah also allowed the Philistines to make a raid on the land, thus diverting Saul from his pursuit.
17. Under intense pressure, where did Jesus turn for help?
17 Jesus Christ was himself under intense pressure as the end of his earthly life drew near. He was fully aware of how his conduct could affect the name of his heavenly Father and of what it could mean to the future of all humankind. He prayed earnestly, even “getting into an agony.” God saw that Jesus received the support that he needed during that difficult time.
18. What comfort did God give to early Christians who were severely persecuted?
18 So vicious was the persecution of Christians after the founding of the first-century congregation that all except the apostles were dispersed from Jerusalem. Men and women were physically dragged from their homes. What comfort did God provide them? The assurance from his Word that they had “a better and an abiding possession,” an unfailing inheritance in the heavens with Christ. (Hebrews 10:34; Ephesians 1:18-20) As they continued to preach, they saw evidence that God’s spirit was with them, and their experiences gave them further reason to rejoice.
19. Though Paul suffered severe persecution, how did he feel about the comfort that God gives?
19 In time, Saul (Paul), who himself had been a violent persecutor, became an object of persecution because he had become a Christian. On the island of Cyprus, there was a sorcerer who tried to hinder Paul’s ministry by resorting to fraud and distortion. In Galatia, Paul was stoned and left for dead. (Acts 13:8-10; 14:19) In Macedonia he was beaten with rods. (Acts 16:22, 23) After mob violence in Ephesus, he wrote: “We were under extreme pressure beyond our strength, so that we were very uncertain even of our lives. In fact, we felt within ourselves that we had received the sentence of death.” (2 Corinthians 1:8, 9) But in that same letter, Paul wrote those comforting words quoted in paragraph 2 of this article.
20. What are we going to consider in the next article?
20 How can you share in giving such comfort? There are many in our day who need it when experiencing grief, either because of a calamity that strikes many thousands or because of tribulation that afflicts only them. In the following article, we will consider how to give comfort in either case.
Do You Recall?
• Why is the comfort from God of greatest value?
• What comfort is provided through Christ?
• How has the holy spirit proved to be a comforter?
• Give examples of the comfort provided by God when his servants were under severe pressure.
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The Bible shows us that Jehovah brought comfort by delivering his people
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Jesus provided comfort by teaching, by healing, and by resurrecting the dead
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Jesus received help from above