Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God” (Isa. 40:1). “Comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18). “For thus saith the Lord, … As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”

We cannot taste, measure, weigh this thing called comfort, but the word is connected with reality, not fantasy. God has commanded us to do many things, and one of them is to be involved in comfort, as comforter or comforted.

Have you a window, in reality or in memory, through which you can see a small child who with eyes shining, hair gleaming in the sun, is running in a field of wild flowers, or playing in the grass, on sand, or among pebbles? Watch while the child laughs and delightedly reaches out to pull some grass or flower, or to pick up sand or a pebble. Suddenly the pure bubble of joy breaks, and the shining moment is shattered by a scream and a doubling up in pain. A bee has angrily stung the little hand that squeezed it along with the grass, flower, sand, or pebble.

A quickly swelling hand indicates physical pain, but the weeping is for more than that. Shock and disappointment have brought a swift change to the smooth freedom of enjoying the sunshine and beauty of the day. The dismay and hurt are deeper than physical, and someone who is trusted, and who understands what has happened, needs to gather that little person up in his or her arms and administer comfort along with first aid. The little one, however, can do one of two things: kick and fight the proffered comfort, or cuddle up in loving arms accepting the comfort.

God is not talking in riddles, or in theological terms that cannot be understood, when he continually speaks of comfort in his Word. The ingredients are clear: ...

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