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Having just attended the funeral of a dear cousin, I am remembering the times in my own life when the Holy Spirit demonstrated his ability to comfort. The Holy Spirit is known in the New Testament as the Comforter as well as the Helper, Advocate, or Intercessor–all accepted translations of the Greek word, paraclete.
Comfort can come in many forms. In a situation of grievous loss, I was comforted by cards and notes, visits from friends, lots and lots of food items delivered to our home, telephone calls, and visits from relatives who had to drive across the country, south to north, to get to my house. I was also comforted by a particular hymn that just happened to be someone’s choice for that week’s Presbyterian worship service. Looking back, I can see the Lord’s hand in all these things. No one has to take time out to call or write. To make a trip of hundreds of miles to visit a grieving cousin was certainly not obligatory in anyone’s universe! No one had to do extra cooking for the benefit of a grieving friend. That hymn was a choice that had nothing to do with me. It just “happened to be” the pick.
All this points to the heart of our compassionate God. Jesus wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. He rebuked the officious disciples who were chasing off those moms who wanted Jesus to bless their children. He treated women as human begins made in the image of God, a radical departure from the customs of the times. The friends who allowed their schedules to be disrupted by my grief paid attention when the Lord whispered in their ears, Make some food, or Write a note, or Yes, get your things together and drive to Pennsylvania, or Pick this hymn. I give credit to all those kind people, as well as the one who unknowingly comforted me with a hymn choice. Of course I do! I am also thanking the Lord, who has a kind heart we can only grope to understand. Psalm 136 declares twenty-six times, “His lovingkindness endures forever.” Could that be more plain? The life of Jesus and the guidance of his Spirit every minute of our lives attests to the current relevance of Psalm 136.
There’s something else going on here—our part in all this. If we don’t listen for the promptings of the Spirit or if we don’t even know what that means, the message won’t get through. If you find yourself in either of those categories, I’m saying all this not to fault you or make you feel in the wrong because I’ve been there too. Take this as a gentle nudge—something the Lord specializes in, by the way—to tune your ears for suggestions coming from the throne. That’s an awesome thought, isn’t it? However, when you remember that our God is our Creator, as well as our Comforter, the one who made us in his own image, we can be confident in our expectation that he will continue to talk to us. He specializes in communication. His name is “the Word of God”! “God is love” the Bible says (I John 4: 7-8).
When we hear one of these prompts, we may be looking at inconvenience or sacrifice, but so what? Our mothers went out of their way for us, as did our fathers. There were other things they could have been doing when they made us meals, looked after us when we were sick, or went to work every day to support the family. Maybe your family doesn’t look like this. If so, you’re a prime candidate for the loving care of theheavenly Father whose mercy is forever. Ask him whatever you want. Talk to him about your need. Do it in the name of Jesus because Jesus is the Door, the way into the throne room. That’s what he said (John 10: 7).
If you don’t know Jesus or pray in his name, that’s easy too. He loves sinners—and if you don’t think that’s you, the Bible takes exception. In fact, it’s very clear: “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3: 23; also Palms14: 3; 53: 3). This means me. My round peg fits perfectly into that round hole, so I’m not pointing fingers! However, I won’t argue with Scripture. Perhaps you will decide not to also. If so, once again—Jesus loves sinners. He’s the best friend we have, and at the cross, he did something about it. Paul said: “But they [sinners] are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3: 24). Look at the numbers. This is the next thing Paul says after all have sinned. We can know the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, because Jesus made a way.