When Comfort Isn’t Comforting (Part 2)

In my last post (When Comfort Isn’t Comforting, Part 1), I explored two kinds of comfort which I believe are not truly comforting.  Today I want to investigate why even genuine comfort fails to comfort as it should.  As I said in my previous post, 2 Corinthians would lead me to conclude that genuine comfort is intended to strengthen us to endure (vs. 6) and equip us to praise God (vs. 3).  This brings me to my third category of comfort – genuine comfort.

Category 3:  Genuine comfort.

From 2 Cor. 1:3-12 it seems to me that genuine comfort includes things such as:

  • Encouraging others to godly endurance (vs. 6).
  • Encouraging reliance on God (vs. 9).
  • Entering the trial with the sufferer by praying for God’s gracious favor for the sufferer (vs. 11).
  • Encouraging the sufferer to remember God’s power being applied for the good of the sufferer (vs. 9).
  • Encouraging the sufferer to trust in God for deliverance (vs. 10).

The result of genuine comfort should equip the sufferer to praise God.

Examples of genuine comfort might include:  “I’m praying for you.”  “God is faithful, He won’t give you more than you can handle.”  “Trust God, He works everything together for good.”

Ironically, even when we receive genuine comfort we sometimes fail to be comforted.  On such occasions we may reason that the comforter “just doesn’t understand” or that “he’s never been through what we’re going through.”

Certainly, others can be insensitive in their use of God’s word (as can we).  Certainly others can offer comfort in a wrong way (as can we).  So, we need to understand that there are different kinds of comfort, but at the same time, let’s be careful not to refuse comfort when we should accept it.

God clearly intended for others to be able to offer us comfort even if they have never gone through the suffering we are experiencing.  Notice that in 1 Cor. 1:4 we’re told to comfort others in any trouble with the comfort we’ve received from God.  If I have received God’s comfort in any trouble in my life, I can give genuine comfort to others.  Why?  Because it’s God’s comfort – not my comfort.  I can comfort others in any trouble they might experience with God’s comfort.

If I’m going to be honest here, I have to admit that sometimes people give me God’s comfort and I refuse to be comforted by it.  Why?  Perhaps God’s comfort doesn’t comfort me because in my heart all I really want is relief.  But God doesn’t spell comfort, R-E-L-I-E-F.  God spells comfort, C-H-R-I-S-T.

That’s the thing about suffering.  When I’m not comforted by God’s comfort it may be that an idol is ruling my heart.  Suffering leaves my heart naked and bare.  It reveals what I’m living for.  Too often when the light is shown on my heart, it finds I’m in a brothel prostituting myself with an idol I believe will do something for me.

Maybe I’ve hopped in bed with ease.

Maybe I’ve hopped in bed with control.

Maybe I’ve hopped in bed with pleasure.

Maybe I’ve hopped in bed with prestige.

And when the vice squad of suffering comes and flips on the light in my heart, what is revealed is a tawdry affair with a false god.

And as that false god is torn from my grip through suffering, I mourn.  I mourn – not over having forsaken the true and living God – but that I can’t have my idol any longer.  And God’s comfort doesn’t comfort, it enrages.

But as we look for God’s comfort out of a genuine love for our Savior, we can expect it to be more than enough to meet the need.  God’s comfort coming to God’s people who love God’s Son is so comforting that the comfort overflows (vs. 5).  Through Christ our comfort overflows (vs. 5).  The comfort is so abundant that it can’t be contained.

So, how should we respond to each type of comfort?  Here are my suggestions.  When given false comfort, use it as an opportunity to grow in graciousness.  With Job’s comforters, examine yourself and see if there is any area in which you need to repent and change.  With genuine comfort, be comforted and praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.

Amy Baker
Amy Baker is the Director of Resources of Faith, an editor, a counselor, and a conference speaker.