The Lord wants Christians to “be there” for one another. That includes being prepared to comfort one another, as it is written: “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). According to that statement, the brethren in Thessalonica already had the practice of comforting one another. Good for them!
A bit earlier in that same letter, we read, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). About what had Paul been writing in that context? The saints there apparently were concerned about those who had died, wondering what would happen to them when the Lord Jesus comes again. The apostle informed them that the dead in the Christ first will be raised to be with Him, and then the faithful who still are alive when He returns will be taken up to meet the Lord in the air (4:13-17). In view of the fact that the dead in the Lord will not miss out on the great blessings of that glorious occasion, they should comfort one another. How? By using the words/message which Paul wrote to them.
On one occasion, the Psalmist said he comforted himself (Psalm 119:52). In another case, he wrote, “In the day of my trouble . . . My soul refused to be comforted” (Psalm 77:2). Does such a range of responses to life’s experiences sound familiar to you?
After Jacob died, Joseph’s older brothers were afraid that Joseph would retaliate against them for the way they had treated him in the past. The Bible says that Joseph comforted them by speaking to them (Genesis 50:21). Another Old Testament example of comforting is found in Job 42:11, where it is recorded that Job’s family and acquaintances came to comfort him after all the adversity which he had faced.
The God of heaven is described as “the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). He cares about His children, and when He sees them facing trials and suffering, He wants them to be comforted. As our Shepherd, His rod and staff comfort us (Psalm 23:4). As we have seen, at times God comforts us through His word (Romans 15:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:18).
At other times, the Lord comforts us through humans. Paul wrote that God “comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4). What a wonderful picture! When Christians receive comfort from God when we are facing a rough time in life, we can turn around and use our experience of being comforted to comfort others.
When Paul was a prisoner in Rome, he sent a brother by the name of Tychichus to comfort the saints in Ephesus (Ephesians 6:21,22) and Colosse (Colossians 4:7,8). The fact that Paul would send Tychichus on such a mission indicated how much he thought of that brother’s ability and willingness to do his best to comfort others.
Which members of the church stand in need of comforting? Each person has a unique character. Some of us are openly emotional, while others tend to keep their emotions hidden. Regardless of our personality, there are times when all of us need to be comforted. Paul reminded the brethren in Thessalonica that in the past, he had comforted each one of them (1 Thessalonians 2:11). It is not a sign of mental or spiritual weakness to have such a need.
Those who have lost a person who meant a lot to them need to be comforted. The Jews came to comfort Martha and Mary after Lazarus died (John 11:31). The Lord wants us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15), which would include those who are grieving. Sometimes we fret about trying to find the perfect words to say to a brother or sister who is devastated by the death of their mate. In fact, no extraordinary words are necessary. Simply being at their side, serving the family by providing food or arranging transportation, or telling them that we are praying for them can be a big encouragement to them.
The Holy Spirit calls on Christians to “comfort the fainthearted” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Some folks are struggling. They may be struggling with their faith, their relationship with a person, or controlling their temper. When that happens, one can get down on himself and think he is a hopeless cause. We need to be there to comfort and exhort one another. One brother in Corinth who had been living in sin repented. What did the brethren there need to do? They were admonished “to forgive and comfort him” (2 Corinthians 2:7). We all need such understanding.
Those who are broken-hearted because they were dumped by a fiancé or serious boy/girlfriend need to be comforted. So do those who did not get a job they were seeking. Those who have gone through a gut-wrenching divorce need to be comforted, too, as do those whose grown child has left the church.
To comfort one another, we need eyes that see, ears that hear, a heart that cares, and hands that are ready to serve. May we always be such a person!
— Roger D. Campbell