What does it mean to have a Comforter?

It’s Monday Grace!

Which is better: a map or a personal guide? Which is better: a book or a mentor? Which is better: a first aid kit or a paramedic? I suppose I am treading on thin ice with those who have had special challenges in personal relationships, but most of us would say that people are better at helping us than things. I know I would rather have a friend who prays than a prayer book.

We were made to live in relationships. That’s why relationship abuse hurts so much. It damages our trust and closes doors in us to receive good from others. I understand.

Perhaps the most important part of the grace message is the profound application of the truth that Jesus is real and active in our lives. We are not alone. We are not left with a book, even if that book is the Bible. We are not simply listed on the membership rolls of a church, we are connected with Him life to life.

Those who read here know that I believe and value the Bible. But even the Bible is only important because of the Person behind it. We are called to trust that the Spirit guides our reading and understanding of the Bible. It is not just a book filled with rules and standards and examples of those who did poorly. It is an active and personal connection with the Lord through the Holy Spirit.

So, as I was reading the other day, I came across this verse:

Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun: and look! The tears of the oppressed, but they have no comforter– On the side of their oppressors there is power, but they have no comforter.
Ecclesiastes 4:1

Oppression, cruelty, these are real and sadly common parts of life. Most of us have suffered under abusers or manipulators. We understand something of struggling under the oppression of those who hate us or care little about us. The intensity of the struggle certainly differs. There are those who have suffered far more than I have. But the feelings are much the same.

The verse I discovered in Ecclesiastes points out a vital difference between sufferers. There are those who do not have a comforter. The way this reads is that the writer is shocked and grieved that these oppressed people had no comforter. This was a great evil.

No one to sit with them and pray for them. No one to walk the difficult path with them. No one to listen to their words or salve their wounds or condemn the injustice. To have no comforter is to truly suffer.

Some of those who are reading this understand. There was a time when you had no one. No one understood. No one cared. No one helped. At least that’s what it felt like. To be alone in suffering is to be truly alone.

Jesus knew that the days ahead would be challenging for those who followed Him. He knew they would face oppression from a variety of sources. So, when He connected them with the Holy Spirit (a real Person, by the way), He said He was giving them a Comforter. Unfortunately, most modern versions dropped the term, “Comforter,” in favor of something like “Helper.” That’s good, but it misses the point. In Greek, “paraclete” means “the one who comes alongside.” He didn’t just come to help, but to comfort.

So, when the disciples and others faced oppression and suffering, they had a Comforter. The Holy Spirit of God was with them, personally present. They were not alone. The theological mystery might have been difficult, but they understood that Jesus was with them in the Person of the Spirit.

To have a Comforter means there is One who sees our tears, hears our complaints, and knows our hearts. One who loves us and accepts us, even when others turn away. Even when our feelings are unreasonable, He remains with us. He does help us, but His presence makes the difference.

When I was first in ministry, I went regularly to the nursing home to spend time with the folks who were trapped by age and infirmity in wheelchairs and beds and a small community served by underpaid workers. While the primary place I went to was good and the caregivers did care, those who lived there were usually alone.

Perhaps I should not have been surprised when I asked what they wanted to sing. Almost every time the answer was the same: “What A Friend!” I think I understand that better now.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Thank you, Joseph Scriven, for writing this reminder that our Comforter is real and present with us!


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2 responses to “What does it mean to have a Comforter?

  1. Amy

    Amen! When I travelled through an abusive marriage and eventually, a divorce, I said often how I could not have gotten through without Jesus in my life because without Him there was often no one else there for me.
    He does indeed comfort those who choose to walk with Him.

  2. Sue

    I need the Comforter each day as I suffer through the trials and traumas of this life! THANK you Pastor, you have comforted my aching heart with this powerful reminder.

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