What does the word ‘comfort’ mean to you? To some, it means a lovely handsome slice or two of cake! For others, it’s going to be booking a holiday, getting the pay bonus, soaking in a long hot bath or perhaps resorting to the bottle. One list of the top ten comforts taken abroad includes tea bags, slippers, tomato sauce, your own pillow, a dressing gown and a photo of a pet! Maya Angelou had a very hard life but said this: ‘The best comfort food will always be greens, cornbread, and fried chicken’. No doubt we all have our own lists but these are all comforts for the body which have a temporary value. How about the comfort we need for the soul?
- ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy’ – Martin Luther King
- ‘If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair’ – C S Lewis
- ‘Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has’ – Billy Graham
- ‘The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish’ – Pope John Paul II
Like all words, ‘comfort’ is a word with a history! Essentially, there’s a bit of Latin and a bit of French. The Latin ‘com’ is ‘an intensive prefix’ to convey the sense of ‘giving or imparting’ and ‘fortis’ means ‘strong or strength’. The Old French language has ‘conforter’ implying ‘solace, help, to strengthen’. The idea of ‘comforts’ rather than ‘bare necessities’ came in the 1650s and comfort eating in 1987, referring to food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental value but typically is of dubious nutritional value! Language is fascinating – one wonders how they expressed these things before the word ‘comfort’ emerged!
Back to your soul then! God knows that your soul needs comfort, lots of it. Paul describes our body as being like a tent, a temporary ‘lodging place’ where we ‘groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies’ (Romans 8). Taking that metaphor then, it is not at all surprising that when our ‘tents’ take a battering in the storms that we need some tent pegs to bring strength so that we don’t get blown away! It’s in the darkest valley that the comforting light shines brightest.
- ‘Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this, your promise preserves my life’ – Psalm 119:49-50
- ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted’ – Matthew 5:4
- ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me’ – Psalm 23:4
The lasting comfort we need doesn’t come in the form of a cake – those waiting calories only offer guilt! Nor do we always find comfort in fine words. Job’s story illustrates this as he responds with irritation to his insensitive friends: ‘I have heard many things like these; you are miserable comforters, all of you! Will your long-winded speeches never end?’ – Job 16:2-3
Take heart from the comfort that we find in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit:
- ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ – Psalm 46:10
- ‘”Comfort, yes, comfort my people!” says your God’ – Isaiah 40:1
- ‘Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall not be shaken’ – Psalm 62:5-6
- ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am’ – John 14:1-3
- ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’ – John 16:33
- ‘I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you’ – John 14:16-18 (King James Version)
Find comfort in the one who loves you, who knows you and still loves you. There will never be a time when he loves you any more than he does right now, no matter what you do, for he truly loves you and wants to comfort you in your need.
- ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God’ – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
As you find strength in him, you can rise like an eagle above your circumstances and you may find others you can bring some comfort to – sometimes, you might give them cake too!
TAGS – peace, help, strength, renewal, perspective