So, I have this need. A time-sensitive need. It’s one of those needs that you try not to worry about too much, but as the days go by and nothing changes, you start to worry a lot.
“God,” I say, “I have this need. Now, You know I have this need, and I know You know that, so if You could maybe speed up Your need-fulfilling machine and meet this need ASAP, that would take a load off my mind. We’re dealing with a time-sensitive issue here, and the funny thing about time is that it’s always running out. Right, God? God? Is this thing on?”
I scratch my head and wring my hands and ramble on and on until all I can think about for the next hour and day and week is that one need that keeps coming closer to its deadline.
And then I read Matthew chapter 6, and I realize God is speaking to me:
(30) “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? (31) Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (32) (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. (33) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
From these verses, God reminds me, and us, that we need not allow worry over our needs to consume our thoughts. Sometimes, we prioritize our cares on earth over Kingdom concerns too much.
What should we do?
We should seek first the Kingdom of God and trust that God will meet our needs. My Apostolic Study Bible explains it as actively pursuing the Kingdom while passively expecting the meeting of our needs.
Indeed, Matthew 6 says it perfectly as well. If God takes care of His creation, then how much more will He care for His children? For He knows our needs. And so we should not busy ourselves with overloaded concern for our own selves. Rather, we should busy ourselves with His Kingdom.
Prioritizing trust in Him breeds more trust in Him and the assurance that God will take care of us no matter what life throws our way.
I may still have a need, as do we all, but I also have the promise that my Savior who knows my need is working on my behalf and will come through for me at precisely the right moment.
If we are faithful to Him, then He will provide for all our needs in this life, for the righteous are not forsaken.
When I drive through Springfield, Missouri, I see a sign on East Sunshine that says, “Love God, love people—on purpose.”
Two basic commands in life are to love God and to love our fellow man. We love God because He first loved us, and with the love of God in us, we are able to love others. I believe this applies to other acts of love, such as comfort.
Last week, we covered how “comfort” in the New Testament relates to the theme that we have hope in Jesus because He calls us near to Him. This theme continues throughout the New Testament. 2 Corinthians 7:6 says, “Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” “Comforteth” comes from the Greek word parakaleō, which as you may recall from last week’s post means “to call near.” “Cast down” translates from the Greek word tapeinos (pronounced “tap-i-nos’”), which means “depressed, humiliated (in circumstances or disposition), of low degree (estate), lowly.” We know we are an unworthy and lowly people, and we are often in despair, but God calls the lowly near to Him.
Romans 15:4-5 (KJV)
4 “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus.”
Paul is telling the Christians of the church of Rome that the Word of God was written to teach and instruct us in the doctrine. Here, “learning” in Greek is didaskalia, which means “instruction, doctrine, or teaching.” In fact, he says the endurance and constancy (which is from hupomonē, the Greek word for patience in this verse) and the comfort of the Scriptures gives us hope or confidence (according to the translation of hope in the Greek, which is elpis). In the next verse, Paul calls God the “God of patience and consolation.” Since God is the Word and the Word is with and is God, both He and His Word literally are our source of comfort and hope. And that source of comfort and hope endures forever. No matter what we may go through, we are never without the comfort of God and hope within His Word. But the comfort of God and the hope we have because of His comfort is not the only theme that accompanies this word in the New Testament.
Just as the love of God helps us love others, God comforts us so that we can comfort others.
2 Corinthians 1:3-6 (KJV)
3 “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth in Christ.
6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.”
God is our Father Who comforts us in every troublesome situation. Here, “comforteth” again means “to call near.” When burdens, trials, and afflictions persecute us, God calls us near to Him. However, He comforts us so that we might be able to receive strength from and confidence in Him as well as comfort others. We may suffer for striving to live righteously, but God gives us an excess of consolation. “Abound” and “aboundeth” here come from the Greek perisseuo, which means “to be in excess, abundance, to increase, and to remain.” Paul and the early church suffered greatly for serving Christ. My Apostolic Study Bible says this about this passage: “Paul and the church at Corinth had shared in Christ’s sufferings. God’s merciful deliverance of Paul from his tribulation served as an encouragement to the Corinthians that He would deliver them also.” When we suffer, we do so for the cause of Christ. Though our sufferings are in abundance, so is God’s comfort and mercy. He delivered Paul from difficulty to encourage others in the same way that He still delivers us today to encourage others. We experience difficulty and the comfort of the Lord so that we can learn how to be a comfort to others in their time of difficulty. So, not only do we receive comfort from God, but we receive comfort from one another.
On numerous occasions, the Lord commands His people through the apostles to comfort each other. In 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, the apostle Paul instructs the church at Thessalonica to comfort each other with the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ:
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (KJV)
16 “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
Again, “comfort” here comes from parakaleō. Another meaning of this word is “to exhort,” which means to encourage someone. In the Apostolic Study Bible, the notes for these verses discuss the church’s responsibility to “offer encouragement and comfort to those who are grieving,” for “the return of Christ means we do not need to grieve as those who are hopeless.” The next chapter contains two more commands to comfort:
1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14 (KJV)
11 “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.”
We comfort one another by building up each other. “Edify” from the Greek word oikodomeō (pronounced “oy-kod-om-eh’-o”) means “to construct or (figuratively) confirm, build (up), embolden.” In verse 14, “comfort” comes from the Greek word paramutheomai (“par-am-oo-theh’-om-ahee”), which means “to relate near, that is (by implication), encourage, console.” These verses and the verses that follow contain several practical instructions (such as “pray without ceasing” in verse 17) to believers on how to live righteously and ethically so that we can make it to Heaven. Among these instructions is the command to encourage the “feebleminded,” that is the “little spirited” or “faint hearted” according to the translation of the original Greek word oligopsuchos (“ol-ig-op’-soo-khos”). We must support and give encouragement to those who are weary among us because God has done the same for us. We are nothing without God, and in the midst of trials, we cannot rely on ourselves for strength. God is our strength and comfort. If He does this all for us, then we should offer the same for others.
Some of the last messages about comfort in the New Testament speak of the church comforting each other. In the face of trials and persecution, the church stands united so long as we comfort and give strength to one another. As we well know, a house divided against itself cannot stand. In this time that the church is facing its fiercest opposition, we cannot afford to allow ourselves to become prejudiced toward each other and fail in our responsibility to lift our brothers and sisters up to God in prayer. The early church faced persecution from the enemy, and so Paul instructed them to encourage each other. Likewise, in these last days, the church is again facing persecution and opposition all over the world, but we still have that same command to be a comfort to each other. Our end goal—our ultimate goal is Heaven, and we work daily to live righteously so that we can all make it there.
As the children of God, we are never alone in our difficulties. As the Word teaches us about comfort, from the Old Testament to the New, we receive our strength and comfort from two places: from God and from the church. He comforts the weary so that we can comfort our weary fellow believers. He consoles the broken hearted so that the church can give consolation to the broken hearted. He calls us near to Him so that we can bind together with each other and lift up the depressed and hurting in our communities. His strength is our strength, His comfort is our hope, and our responsibility is to comfort each other with the news of eternal life through Him.
“2020 has been consistent,” a friend of mine recently said.
It began crazy, became wild, and is wrapping up in a confusing maelstrom of insanity. This past week has proven just that.
As my family and I went into election week, COVID hit us and many we know. At first, it felt like things were collapsing. There’s a picture somewhere on the internet of a room on fire and a person standing numbly in the midst of it, unable to stop the chaos and practically accustomed to it. That’s where I was at the beginning of the week. I had planned on writing more posts for BPR by Sunday, but COVID upended my plans.
And now insanity has upended the US election. And here I sat, trying to catch up on posts that I was already supposed to have finished and posted for everyone to read so I could move into the next post series I’ve been preparing. But everything has a purpose. I began to wonder. What if I wasn’t supposed to finish these posts by earlier this week? What if, in the middle of all the craziness of post-election day, someone somewhere needs this reminder of God’s comfort now instead? What if the crazy things that happen in our life are orchestrated by God with a purpose? If God is the orchestrator of our life, and He is, then nothing happens that God does not know about and allow for a divine reason. This means He is in control. This means He hasn’t left us alone. This means that no matter what else happens, Jesus is our only hope.
We may be stressed to tears over struggling to do the things God has called us to do in this pandemic-obsessed and divided nation. We may be saddened over the loss of loved ones due to COVID or the news of loved ones infected with the virus, but our circumstances do not place us at a disadvantage.
“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” ~Matthew 5:4 (KJV)
Despite our sadness and struggles, we are blessed. “Blessed” translates to makarios in the original Greek translation of this verse, which means “supremely blest, fortunate, well off, happy (-ier).” We are a fortunate people even though we mourn. “Mourn” comes from the Greek entheō (pronounced “pen-theh’-o”) and means “to grieve (the feeling or the act); bewail/wail.” We may be grieving and wailing in our grief, but we are still well off. Why? Because God calls us near to Him. “Comforted” in this verse comes from the Greek word parakaleō, which means “to call near, that is, invite; invoke by imploration, hortation, or consolation; beseech, call for; be of good comfort; give exhortation; intreat.” In other words, those who grieve are blessed because God shall give them comfort and consolation. Even though we grieve and mourn, we are still fortunate because in those moments of grief, God calls us near to Him and comforts us. Therefore, even in the midst of our grief, we can find joy in knowing God will invite us closer to Him. We have hope in Jesus. That He is our Hope is not the only lesson I discovered when studying comfort in the New Testament.
 “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” ~John 14:16, 18 (KJV)
God, our Comforter, does not only draw us to him, but He comes to us! In John 14:16, “Comforter” translates in the Greek to paraklētos, meaning “intercessor, consoler, advocate.” “Comfortless” in verse 18 comes from the Greek word orphanos, which means “bereaved (orphan), that is, parentless, fatherless.” Jesus is speaking in these verses, telling His disciples that He would send an intercessor or advocate to dwell with them forever. He said again that He would not forsake them or leave them without comfort or a Father but that He would come to them. My Apostolic Study Bible says the following about these verses: “While Jesus would soon leave His disciples physically, this “Spirit of truth,” which was now with them and was invisible to the world, would dwell within them…. The Spirit that indwelt Jesus was the Comforter. He would not forsake them, leaving them…as ‘orphans,’ but would ‘come to’ them.” In verse 18, “I will come” is from the Greek word erchomai that is only used in the present and imperfect tense, meaning that Jesus wasn’t just telling the disciples then that He wouldn’t leave them but that this still applies to us today. Through the Presence of God’s Spirit, He comes to us and dwells with us. We find comfort in the Presence of God, which in turn gives us strength.
“Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” ~Acts 9:31 (KJV)
Here, through Barnabas’ testimony, God calmed the disciples and helped them trust Saul (who had been persecuting them before his conversion). Now that their persecutor was one of them and was preaching the Gospel, they had some rest because God’s Spirit, the Comforter, gave them rest and edified them. In the comfort of the Spirit, they boldly served God and grew. “Rest” in Greek is eirēnē (pronounced “i-rah’-nay). This means “peace, prosperity, quietness.” We translate “edified” from the Greek word oikodomeō (pronounced “oy-kod-om-eh’-o”), which means “to be a house builder, that is, construct or confirm, build up, embolden.” The comfort of the Holy Ghost, God’s Spirit, gives us peace and prosperity, literally enabling us to build each other up, grow His Kingdom, and walk boldly in serving the Lord. Serving Him comes with a process, however, on which Matthew 9:20-22 sheds some light:
 “And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:
 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.
 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.”
The woman with the issue of blood teaches us a little about finding comfort in the process of serving God. According to the Greek translation, “issue of blood” (aihmorrheō, which is pronounced “hahee-mor-hreh’-o”) means “to flow blood, that is, have a haemorrhage.” For years, this woman suffered some form of bleeding, possibly internal, but she didn’t let her issue keep her down. “Came” in verse 20 translates to the Greek word proserchomai (pros-er’-khom-ahee), which means “to approach, that is, (literally) come near, visit, or (figuratively) worship.” “Touched” in the Greek haptomai (hap’-tom-ahee) means “to attach oneself to, that is, to touch.” She approached Jesus and attached herself to the hem, or border, of his robe because she believed that if she did so, that alone would heal and deliver her. We know that Jesus immediately turned around and, seeing her, declared that she could have courage (“comfort” in verse 22 is from the Greek word tharseō and means “to have courage, be of good cheer”). Why? Well, “faith” in verse 22 means “persuasion, that is, credence; moral conviction (of religious truth or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher) especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; assurance, belief” according to the Greek translation. This woman’s moral conviction, reliance on Jesus for healing, assurance in Him, and belief made her whole. She was completely healed and delivered that same hour. Her story teaches us that we can have comfort and courage knowing that if we worship God, draw near and attach ourselves to Him, rely on Him for assurance, and believe that He can do anything, then He will deliver us, protect us, preserve us, and save us.
There is comfort in the process. Isn’t it interesting that the Greek translation for “came” also means to worship? Imagine what would happen if we didn’t just come to Jesus but if we always came to Him in worship and praise! Living for God is often difficult when we let our flesh get in the way and when we let life’s disappointments discourage us, but we can find comfort in the process—we worship Him, we draw near to Him and push other things away, we rely on Him daily, and this brings us comfort. This makes us whole.
It’s 31 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and you’re sitting in your favorite comfy chair right in front of a warm fire. You’ve got fuzzy socks on, a thick blanket wrapped around you, and you’re holding a cup of fresh hot cocoa. There’s no noise, save for maybe the rustling of fall leaves in your front yard and the turn of pages in the book you’re reading. It’s the picture of comfort.
We think of comfort in many ways. For some, it’s the above scenario. Others might think of a fun dinner gathering with family and friends. I like lists—schedules, grocery lists, prayer lists, goal lists, etcetera. Lists give me a sense of security and comfort. If I see what I need to accomplish in writing, then it becomes more feasible to me. It helps me grasp a task and see its completion. But there are often moments when the need for comfort goes far beyond feeling cozy on a cold evening, having a fun chat with family, or planning out a task. When the homework or bills pile high or we’re in a dry wilderness that no one else understands, what we need goes beyond the physical, tangible world. When our spirit needs comforting, we must go to the Word of God.
“This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.” ~Psalms 119:50
Psalm 119 discusses meditation on the law of the Lord, or Scripture, and when we meditate on His Word, we learn to trust and find comfort in Him. The Hebrew word for “affliction” in verse 50 is ‛ŏnîy (pronounced “on-ee’”) and means “depression, misery, or trouble.” “Quickened” in Hebrew is châyâh (khaw-yaw’), meaning “to revive, nourish up, preserve, recover, restore to life, save alive, surely be whole.” Now, remember from the first word study post in this series that “comfort” in the Hebrew often translates to “consolation.” Here, the word for comfort in Hebrew is nechâmâh, similar to nâcham, which means “to console” in Isaiah 49:13. The psalmist in the above verse was depressed and troubled, but his misery did not consume him. Why? Because the Word of the Lord revived him, nourished him, restored him, and made him whole. This is our consolation when we have an overdue water bill, student loans piling up, groceries to buy, and a broken water heater to fix. This is our consolation when we have multiple essays and projects due while studying for exams. This is our consolation when we seem to crawl through the barren wilderness, enduring unexplainable grief and hopelessness. God’s Word declares He is with us, He will never forsake us, and that He will provide our every need. Our comfort during miserable circumstances is the hope we find in His Word. Even when we’re depressed, His Word pulls us out of that depression and nourishes and restores us. His Word gives us life and the strength to go on and endure.
“I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;
“But I am the LORD thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared: The LORD of hosts is his name.” ~Isaiah 51:12, 15
God is the Comforter of His people. The note for Isaiah 51:12 in my Apostolic Study Bible states that “the Israelites should no longer fear Babylon because it will fade away.” In fact, the headline for chapter 51 is “Jerusalem’s Comfort.” In this chapter, God reminds His people that His righteousness and salvation are forever. We should not be afraid of mankind or things on earth because the moth and worm “shall eat them up,” and the earth will “wax old like a garment” (see Is. 51:6-8). There truly is a season to everything as Ecclesiastes chapter 3 says. In Isaiah 51:12, God tells His people that He is the One Who comforts and eases us and asks how anyone could be afraid of a mortal man who will die or of mankind who is brought forth as mere grass. In verse 15, He reminds us just Who He is. He is Jehovah Who is THE God Who literally split apart the sea when the people of Israel fled Egypt. “Hosts” translated from the Hebrew tsâbâ’ tsebâ’âh means “a mass of persons especially regularly organized for war, an army, and soldiers waiting upon war.” He is the LORD of an army! Man is nothing compared to God, and nothing compares to His greatness and strength and His mighty hand in battle!
When our needs go beyond the physical world and life weighs us down, God will provide us with strength, restore us, and lead an army against our enemy to fight our battles for us. Jesus is the true picture of comfort for the weary and troubled soul.
The next post in this series will be studying how the word “comfort” appears in the New Testament and what it means. Be sure to subscribe to receive a notification when “Comfort in the New Testament Part One: A Brief Analysis” goes live! I pray this word study of “comfort” in the Old Testament has blessed you and perhaps even compelled you to conduct “word” studies in the Word and dive deeper into Bible studying. In the meantime, here’s a beautiful song about God’s blessings (which Numbers 6:24-27 inspired) to help you find comfort in His Presence:
When trial after trial hits, each trial compounding on the previous one, it becomes very easy for a whirlwind of anxiety, frustration, and depression to sweep you away. In the midst of all the chaos, you realize what you long for is comfort—to feel a calm to the storm within and around you if even for a moment long enough to reassure you that somehow everything will be okay.
Again and again throughout Scripture and still today, God comforts His people. In the Greek and Hebrew languages, the word “comfort” takes on various meanings from compassion to consolation and ease. In the Old Testament, “comfort” appears when His people are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or afraid.
“In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.” ~Psalm 94:19
God comforts us and gives us support, encouragement, and mercy when our thoughts and circumstances seem to consume us. In Psalm 94:19, the Hebrew word for “multitude” is “rôb,” meaning “abundance.” The Hebrew word for “comforts” is “tanchûm tanchûm tanchûmâh” and means “compassion, solace, and consolation.” “Delight” translates into “shâ‛a‛,” or shaw-ah’,” which means “in good acceptation; to look upon with complacency, please, or amuse.” As a person who tends to overthink, it is far too easy for negative thoughts to overwhelm me, but as the psalmist said, in the middle of all my fear and doubt and anxiety, His compassion pleases my soul.
Three verses later, the psalmist declared in Psalm 94:22, “But the LORD is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge.” “Defence” here comes from the Hebrew word “miώgâb,” or “mis-gawb’,” which means “a refuge or a place in Moab that was a high fort or tower,” and “rock” comes from the Hebrew “tsûr tsûr,” or “tsoor tsoor,” which indicates a rock or defense that is sharp, mighty, and strong. “Refuge” comes from the Hebrew “machăseh machseh,” or “makh-as-eh’ makh-seh’,” and means “shelter, hope, place of refuge, and trust.” God is literally our strong and mighty tower—the place of refuge where we find hope, shelter, and trust. With both of these verses in account, not only does God comfort us and give us encouragement and mercy when we war with the thoughts in our mind, but He also goes to war for us and gives us a place in His Presence where we can find shelter from the overwhelming battle and where we can find hope and learn to trust in Him.
Looking at the chapters before and after Psalm 94 helps us understand the context of this chapter’s message. The heading for Psalm 94 in my Apostolic Study Bible says, “God avenges His people.” Psalm 93 discusses the “supremacy of the Lord” and how He is clothed with majesty and strength. The three psalms immediately following Psalm 94 express praise, worship, and celebration of God as our Great King and Creator Who eternally reigns over all the universe. If we look at these chapters collectively, we understand that we must praise God for His greatness and majesty because of who He is—He is everlasting and mighty, and He fights for us and is merciful to us as the Judge of the earth. He is our Creator, after all. It is comforting to know and understand that our Creator truly cares and has compassion for us.
God’s Word associates comfort with praise again in Isaiah 49:13:
“Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.”
The prophet Isaiah is instructing God’s creation to sing for joy and triumph because God consoles His people and gives mercy to those who are depressed and poor. “Sing” here comes from the Hebrew word “rânan,” which means “to shout or cry aloud for joy or to rejoice for triumph.” “Comforted” is from the Hebrew word “nâcham,” meaning “to console or to ease,” and “afflicted” comes from the Hebrew “‛ânîy,” or “aw-nee’,” which means “depressed in mind or circumstances, lowly, needy, or poor.” Here, we see again how great our God is and that He is always there to comfort us and care for our needs, showing us mercy and compassion and love. But it is not enough to merely give this instruction once or remind God’s people only one time of His comfort and mercy. In Isaiah 52:9, we see yet another command to praise:
“Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.”
We often have good reason behind our despair, for life often comes with an abundance of pain, loss, and suffering. But Isaiah understood that God’s people should praise Him even when we’re in those low places of sorrow. We sing praises to Him, and He comforts and redeems us. We may be desolate waste places, but God has bought us with His Blood and delivered us from all sin and sorrow. Our world is unfair and filled with strife and darkness, but God has overcome the world and given us His Presence and Word to be our comfort.
I hope this brief analysis of comfort in the Old Testament has blessed you. Stay tuned for part two on studying comfort in the Old Testament in which we’ll cover more of Psalms and Isaiah and how we can find comfort in God’s strength and provision. For an encouraging song to remind you of the Lord’s greatness and comfort in the meantime, check out “The Isaiah Song” by The Urshan College Choir.