How do we respond when we experience great pain, failure, or struggle? In addition to other things, we pray to God for His comfort now and His supernatural relief from discomfort later. In this mode of thinking, God’s comfort represents a barrier between pain and us. Comfort is to sleeping on a feather bed as discomfort is to sleeping on the rocky ground. But, should we seek a comfy life when Jesus Himself had no place to lay His head? Doesn’t God desire to comfort His people?
The history of the word “comfort” reveals an important narrative. The word is made from two Latin word parts, com-, an intensifying prefix which means “together with,” and fortis, which means “strong or strength.” Later, the Latin word confortare comes to mean, “to strengthen much.” Eventually, an Old French word, conforter, would add words like “solace” and “help” to the definition. In the 14th century, another French word conforten is defined as, “to cheer up, console.” Finally, by the 17th century, the English version of the word implies the sense of physical ease that we understand today. In about a millennia, this word went from meaning, “together-strength,” to meaning “pain-barrier.”
With this new (old) understanding of comfort as “together-strength,” look at how God has comforted our world. The prophet Isaiah foretold of a Messiah who would enter our world to be wounded for our transgressions and striped for our healing. If the very nature of our faith is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, then let us consider His response to pain. In 1 Peter 2:21-25, we see a Savior who accepted pain quietly despite having done nothing to earn it. Jesus does not avoid pain, or look for a scapegoat; He comes into our world and makes our pain His pain.
When faced with great trial or pain, are you more likely to seek a way out or to seek the footsteps of Jesus?
God, I don’t like pain, but I love You. Please change my understanding of Your comfort and help me to feel it. Holy Spirit, show me where Your “together-strength” is carrying me through this. Jesus, help me to know how You bore my pain.