When I write or read I am very aware of repeating words. They often distract me. When checking my own work I try to change any words that I’ve repeated into something else. The exception to this is when it is done for effect. Using the same word or phrase over and over again can make a story especially funny or poignant and it certainly gets the reader’s attention. Remember Little Bunny Foo Foo? It turns out God does the same thing!
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 afflictions so that we will 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
Do you think that maybe when God uses the same word FIVE TIMES in a sentence that He wants us to notice?
Who doesn’t want to be comforted? Comfort makes me think of Charles Schultz’s Linus and his blanket – it’s always with him and he makes no excuse for his need for it. Linus is the wisest and most honest character in Charlie Brown. He needs comfort and doesn’t apologize for it. Linus also knows where to receive comfort and makes sure that it abides with him at all times. I love his line in Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown when Lucy asks him what he will do with it when he grows up: “Maybe I’ll turn it into a sport coat!” This little boy has no plans to discard his source of comfort as he grows – he knows he will never outgrow his need for it.
Now I’m not calling God a security blanket, but there are a few similarities. When I am honest about my need for comfort, God is already at work comforting me. I abide with Him by remaining aware of His presence and work in and around me throughout my day. Some days it is provided through a spontaneous hug from a family member or the perfect song on the radio or a glorious sunset. God enters my reality and comforts me through my senses which in turn comforts my soul.
Why does He do this? First and foremost, because it is Who He Is. Think about the fact that God is calling Himself “God of all comfort.” He can’t not comfort. The Father of all comfort means He is the source of the comfort we receive each day whether or not we acknowledge that. And very often He chooses to use people to comfort each other.
Gifted to give
In the bewildering days after saying goodbye to our sweet Jeremiah, the people of God comforted us in a myriad of ways. It was a beautiful thing to experience and observe. What I especially loved was how each person brought the gift that was unique to them. There were many casserole people who comforted us through our stomachs. While this was the most common gift, it was not the least appreciated! While meeting a basic physical need these delicious meals reminded us of God’s promise to provide our daily bread. And each meal was as unique as the person who created it.
One Master Gardener we knew brought us a little tree in Jeremiah’s memory. She helped us select it’s new homesite and we planted it together. The kids gathered rocks to encircle it.
There were also people who focused on our children in their time of grief. As their mother this comforted me as well since the state of those little hearts was utmost in my mind. We had a lady in our church who was everyone’s favorite Sunday School teacher. Kids may have officially graduated out of second grade, but they never forgot the fun of Mrs. Grant’s Bible story pageants, objects lessons and art projects. This dear woman came and took our bigger kids for the afternoon. Her simple gift of showing them amazing Lego creations that her grandson had displayed at her house is a sweet memory for all. She then mailed each one a picture of them next to their favorite structure a week later. I’m sure that just getting away from the house was a relief for them as well.
Above and beyond
The death of our young son affected our whole congregation. But it especially shook up some young moms who met weekly for support and Bible study. Even as the thought of losing a child was overwhelming to them, these precious women decided to bless me in an overwhelming way. First, they took turns providing very practical help – things only other moms would think of. Some brought food, but one also cleaned my toilets and another did our laundry. The toilet-cleaning lady told me later that she really wanted to come pray, but didn’t know us so she decided to offer a service to do while she prayed. Amazing comfort in both the physical and spiritual realms!
When I went to thank them for all they had done, I found that they were planning even more. On my 40th birthday (a few weeks after Jeremiah’s death) these ladies created a perfect way to ring in a new year of life. They picked up our oldest daughter from school, my mother from home and left a babysitter with pizza at the house for the rest of the kids. They brought us all to one member’s home who is a hair stylist. Then I got a haircut and makeup, with manicures and pedicures and sweet fellowship for all of us. We felt truly pampered, but they weren’t done. They had arranged for Tony to come pick me up and gave us a gift card for dinner!
Do you see how each person’s gift was special? The cook’s gave food, the gardener gave a tree, the teacher gave fun relief, the moms gave a cleaner house, a makeover and much needed time with my husband. Each was perfect for that person to give because the God of all comfort had created each one with unique abilities and passions to be shared as an extension of His own comfort! He comforts us most often through the people He created doing what He created them to do!
When I am filled with wonder at something beautiful or amazing or sweet or surprising, I want to share that with someone I love. Why? Because joy shared is multiplied. Like a sprinkler suddenly turned on high, the joy overflows and the experience that was already good becomes wonder-full!
When I am sad or confused or worried or downright depressed, my tendency is to turn out the lights, curl into a ball and guard my heart from further pain. I long to be comforted and yet can forget the source of my comfort. In those moments, I need someone to come close, hold me and listen without judgement. Why would that help? Because grief shared is divided.
How about you?
So what did He create you to do? Who does He want you to use your gifts to comfort? Death isn’t the only time we need comfort. There are people all around you that are carrying heavy burdens. Perhaps they are temporary or permanent caregivers to a parent, child or sibling. Though their labor may often be a joy, it is also physically and emotionally exhausting. Do you know someone who is unhappy in their employment or in need of a job? That can be a daily frustration that wears down the heart and makes them feel alone. How many friends and family members are in a difficult season of life? What can you do to remind them that this too shall pass? And that you are there to walk through the hard times as well as the fun?
Ask God to open your eyes to see who He has put in your circle of influence (maybe right in your own home) that needs comfort only you can provide. Then, motivated by the comfort you’ve received, using the gifts that the Great Comforter has given you, comfort that person in the name of the God of all comfort. You will be blessed by being a blessing!
Bear each others burdens
One last story for those who think they have nothing to give, nothing that could possibly help or comfort or ease pain. One day within a week of saying goodbye to Jeremiah, Tony and I saw a sweet friend from church pull up in front of our house. We had just gotten home, so we met her halfway. This woman got out of her car weeping. She came to us and held us both tight, while weeping too much for words. Then she turned around, got back in her car and drove away, still weeping. Do you think that helped in any way? I would never have thought so before this experience. But let me tell you how it felt for us. It was like we had been carrying a huge burden, struggling under the weight. And someone came along and put their shoulder under one corner. The weight was lighter and we knew we weren’t alone. The Swedish proverb is true: Joy shared is multiplied while grief shared is divided. And the Bible clearly commands us in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”