Comfort: What We Really Need and How We Get It
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever,” (John 14:16, KJV).
We all need comfort. When we’re in pain or hurting we naturally gravitate to what brings us comfort, and because of that we all develop very individual coping mechanisms for self-soothing. We all do it. Some of those coping skills can be very healthy. Others may be quite dangerous or risky. We all have that place to which we withdraw. We all have that specific food or person to which we turn. Perhaps it’s a habit or past time. Whatever it is — what we’re really looking for is relief.
When Christ promised us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, He knew the pain, perils, and tribulations that life would bring us. He knew we would experience times, and even seasons, of intense pain, suffering, persecution, and heartache that we could not remedy ourselves. No amount of self-soothing would eliminate these pains. No coping skill we employ would bring ultimate relief. But there is a Person who can bring that kind of comfort. His name is very apt.
He is called the Comforter.
Pain is part of life. It comes to us in a myriad of ways. There are varying kinds of pain, and varying degrees to which it affects us. Some are minor irritations and others are traumatic. Some are very fleeting, and others can be chronic or permanent. There are spiritual and emotional pains just as much as there are physical or mental ones. All of us are very different in how we respond to pain, and each of us have a different pain threshold. Regardless of pain-type or severity, none of us like pain. It’s a very unwelcome intruder from which we seek rescue and immediate relief. When relief cannot immediately come, distress and trauma ensues.
Learning how to respond to pain is vitally important.
Just the other day I experienced an acute emotional wound that I was not anticipating, and it came from someone very close to me. That often makes it worse. The people closest to us are those with whom we are most vulnerable. They have access to us in our emotions that others simply do not have, and when they hurt us it can go very deep. What makes this even more relevant is that this individual did not intend to hurt me at all. In fact, the knowledge that I was hurt by them caused them pain as well. This isolated incident is a perfect example of the daily “bumps and bruises” that life brings to us in its many forms and fashions. However, the pain I initially experienced did not immediately subside, although an apology was given and accepted. I felt that pang of that “bruise” for most of the day and it brought me to tears more than once, and as we all know bruises take time to heal long after the initial injury. How we go about obtaining the comfort we need is very important. As I went about my day without relief in trying to move on, I felt the LORD prompting me to come to Him for the comfort I needed. Once I did, I was able to ask Him why this individual could have done something like this? I just didn’t understand.
He very gently provided the answer, revealing deeper truths within that person’s heart that I could not have seen or known. Once He uncovered this, I clearly saw how that response was motivated and why. It enabled me to respond to this person on a whole new level, and as a result, I felt compassion. Furthermore, I was enabled to pray for them. The Comforter had come, and I was fully relieved of my pain.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you,” (John 14:26, KJV).
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me…,” (John 15:26, KJV).
The Comforter is the Spirit of Truth.
He is the only One who can treat or relieve our pain.
Coming to Him with our pain is the only pain response that will offer us the relief we desire.
Your Response to Pain
We all have a pain response, and we all have a pain threshold. Some of us are ultra-sensitive. Others are made of steel and thick skin. We seem impenetrable, and it all just rolls off.
Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, this is where we often err. I do it. You do it. We all do it. In an attempt to alleviate pain we begin to employ coping mechanisms that protect us — many times without even thinking about it. Some of these are very instinctual, meaning they come automatically. Others are very deliberate, meaning they are formed habit patterns we have learned to employ — precisely because they have worked for us to some degree.
But are they healthy? Are they actually providing the relief and healing needed? Are they effective or deflective? God wants to bring us comfort. He knows we need it. He understands pain and the process of healing and restoration. He wants to provide us genuine relief.
What are your coping mechanisms?
What do you do to self-soothe?
These are very important questions to answer, because some of us, if we are honest with ourselves, have very unhealthy or perhaps even dangerous habits or patterns. What we really need to pinpoint is how we respond to pain — regardless of its type. What may surprise us is that our response to pain is often the same, although those pain types may differ (physical, emotional, etc.). Let me give some examples of common responses to pain:
1.) Withdrawal or Retreat — We seek to remove ourselves from the pain source, whether it’s a person, an object, or a dangerous environment or circumstance. This is the number one response. It’s the instinctual flight response all of us have. We don’t have to think about this one. It comes automatically, and it’s intended purpose is to preserve life.
2.) Defend or Fight — We seek to overcome or remove the pain source if we cannot remove ourselves. We become defensive and engage by fighting. Whether passive or aggressive, this is the fight response. If we believe we can defeat the source of our pain, we often engage with a defense mechanism of some kind. Decisions such as this, again are very instinctual, and are often made within seconds. Those who are victims of abuse have often learned defense mechanisms in the absence of being able to successfully flee. Therefore, they can default to defensive patterns if they are not healed. Keep that in mind.
3.) Self-Soothing — This is where we employ our personal arsenal of tactics that provide us some measure of comfort or relief, however temporary or superficial. Self-soothing is something all of us do. It is not wrong, so long as it is healthy and we understand that any relief provided is very temporary. These tactics need to be measured. They are not the answer to long-term resolution. They merely provide us the opportunity to regain our composure. We may have a favorite place, a food, or a friend. On the other hand, self-soothing for others means drugs, drinking, and other risk-taking behaviors that are destructive and damaging. We all have our preferred self-soothing tactics. What are yours, and are they healthy? Do they work? Do they actually provide you the ability to regain your composure?
4.) Checking Out — We just disengage altogether. This is more than just an unwillingness to address the pain — it’s often evidence of the inability to cope appropriately. So, we stuff it instead. It’s a tactic of diversion, but in the simplest terms, it’s neglect. It’s simply too painful to address, so the alternative is to ignore. This is where pain can fester, causing subsequent injuries. Bitterness, resentment and anger are given a place to boil and brew. Nothing redeemable is accomplished. The outcome is the pain becomes infectious (systemic), matters grow worse, and we become toxic.
5.) Glossing Over — Glossing over uses the tactics of hiding and pretending. We sugar coat our pain with false positives that excuse it or make it seem “okay”. It is often accompanied by the “I’m fine” line. Don’t be fooled — this is not genuine forgiveness. Again, the pain is never actually addressed, and healing is not accomplished. We merely pretend. Underneath, the pain is very real, but it’s hidden beneath a well-polished veneer. All the while there is an undercurrent of resentment or bitterness that leaves others uncomfortable, although they may not know why. In the end, those who gloss over are not fooling anyone but themselves.
6.) Wallowing — This is not the same as having a good cry out, which can be very healthy. On the contrary, this is when we drown in self-pity. We self-loathe and lament. When we wallow, we do not think clearly. We put our intelligence on hold. We make stupid and rash decisions. We do stupid things — many of which bring very limited, superficial, and possibly even harmful results that later cause much greater pain. There are consequences to wallowing, which at the time may seem irrelevant or benign to us in the face of our pain, which is so glaring. So, we become very clouded. We do not care about consequences at all — until we have to pay their price. However, in due time, those consequences always come, and their price is often very high, having long-term effects that are devastating. And so the life-cycle of our pain is thereby perpetuated and continues. Wallowing is a revolving door that does not offer us escape or relief. We only sink deeper into self-destructive cycles.
7.) Revenge — There are those who respond with revenge in a vain attempt to seek justice. However, revenge is the antithesis of forgiveness. This is a very malicious tactic that is extraordinarily dangerous, and by all biblical terms is damnable. These are the people who make news headlines. Revenge is different from the fight response, because it brings no resolution whatsoever. It does not offer reconciliation. The sole motivation is to cause pain, injury, and affliction. Beware: the consequences for revenge are often permanent — and even eternal. Revenge does not seek forgiveness or healing — it seeks destruction and death. There is no redemption to be had, and God absolutely will not bless, vindicate us, or participate when we seek revenge for ourselves. If justice is what we want, only God can grant it. We are to yield our need for justice and vindication to Him. Vengeance belongs to the LORD. He is just and will repay.
8.) Confrontation — We are finally ready to address the pain head on. We face it squarely and engage appropriately. All the cards are on the table. No stone is left unturned. There is a reckoning which allows for appropriate resolution and restoration to occur. We work it out with patience and perseverance — whatever that process or journey looks like or requires. We roll up our sleeves, investigate, forgive, believe, hope, heal, cry, and eventually enter into wellness and wholeness again. Proper engagement requires confrontation. A lot of strength and tenacity are needed, which only God can provide. And for those who are willing, more pain will inevitably be required if healing is to be accomplished in the end. Confrontation is not easy or natural. Most people shy away and avoid confrontation at all costs.
Pain is a great gift when we understand its purpose and respond appropriately. Pain is an excellent and often accurate indicator that something is wrong. It’s meant to trigger us to action. Without it, we would not have the ability to detect areas in our lives that need remedy, healing, or restoration. As a general rule, the greater the pain: the more desperate and urgent the situation. When we ignore pain, we put ourselves in danger unnecessarily. All forms of pain (physical, emotional, or spiritual) tell us that we need to do some investigating. We need to probe deeper and begin paying attention to where it’s coming from and why it’s happening. The goal is to discover the cause so we can root it out and be healed. However, that process can be painful when we have areas that are causing continual distress, torment, and prolonged suffering.
The ability to perceive pain is a gift that offers an opportunity to escape harm and promote healing.
I will never forget the diabetic patient who fell asleep in a wheel-chair. He rolled over the floor furnace of his home with his feet exposed. His feet roasted to the degree that he suffered third-degree burns. This led to non-healing wounds and necrosis that caused systemic infection. Sadly, his legs were amputated. Due to a progressive case of severe neuropathy, he was unable to walk and had no sensation remaining in his feet. His inability to feel pain left him vulnerable to harm. Had he been able to feel pain, he would have been spared.
When we are no longer able to perceive pain, we become vulnerable to harm.
When pain that is felt is ignored, we are beyond the need for relief. We need intervention.
God created us with varying types of pain receptors in our bodies. I’m convinced He’s done the same for our souls. When we are healthy, we have an incredible capacity to feel varying types of pain to varying degrees — all which communicate to us very specific needs.
When we are no longer able to feel or discern our pain, we are not healthy.
It’s important to note that people who are suffering from chronic pain are also suffering from exhaustion. Their physical, emotional and mental faculties, as well as their resources are often sapped or depleted in ways we cannot understand unless we experience what they are going through for ourselves. I’ve witnessed this dilemma firsthand with healthy physicians and nurses who have never suffered or been sick a day in their lives. They simply cannot relate. That inability creates a disconnect and disables them from genuine empathetic care. It’s no fault of their own, but they often have very little to no ability to genuinely empathize with their patients. At times I have even seen them become very skeptical, cynical, jaded, or judgmental of a particular patient. This is where pain often teaches us compassion for others. Without it, we lose the ability to relate, understand, empathize, or provide the support and relief others need. When we experience pain for ourselves a whole new world of understanding opens to us, and we are awakened with compassion on a level that only those who have suffered are able to experience.
It’s also important to note that people who live with chronic pain have established a new baseline of wellness, meaning they’ve lived with it for so long that it’s become their new “normal”. They acclimate to it in ways that allow them to maintain some measure of function, however menial. Instead of pursuing wellness, their energies are focused toward maintenance. This can apply to individuals physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. For those with chronic pain, the wellness journey is entirely different. It’s a very difficult process requiring enormous amounts of energy whether it’s physical, emotional, or spiritual. That investment is often greater than what they have to give. To truly become well, they need the help, support, and assistance of others who are able and willing to fill in those gaps or holes in a truly compassionate manner. And unless you’ve experienced the same type of pain they have and overcome it, that can be a very difficult thing to do.
This is where Christ steps in as the victor for us.
There is no type of pain He cannot relate to, empathize with, or completely heal.
For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ,” (2 Corinthians 1:5, KJV).
For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing may sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings,” (Hebrews 2:10, KJV).
The goal in life is not to deflect pain and become dull or desensitized, but to feel and respond to it appropriately. Be willing to perceive your pain. What is it telling you? From what harm is it trying to spare you?
Where are you hurting?
What type of pain are you experiencing?
What is its source or origin?
Confrontation & Comfort
There is nothing more painful than being unable to feel. I’ve known a friend who had this emotional disability, and with prayer the LORD finally set her free. Her ability to feel again was restored. However, part of that restoration meant feeling pain again — and learning how to respond to it appropriately.
Christ’s healing in the Gospels was motivated by two primary things:
Our faith & His compassion, both which were entirely independent of each other.
My personal life has known much more pain than joy or pleasure. I’m certain that many of you could echo the same sentiment. In all of my pain (and I’ve known much and many kinds), the LORD has always proven Himself to be very capable of bringing initial relief and comfort as well as the ultimate healing and restoration I’ve needed. Each instance is different and unique, but every journey has had resulted in wholeness so long as I’ve patiently endured and persevered with Him at my side. Some journeys have been very long — longer than I ever anticipated or planned. It required more from me than for what I signed up. Those journeys have developed in me a strength and tenacity I’d never otherwise have. Those journeys have also developed in me a deep compassion for others, an ability to empathize, a beautiful dependency upon Christ, genuine humility, and a greater appreciation for the joy and pleasure life brings in all God’s many blessings. I do not ever take those blessings for granted.
I have my self-soothing tactics like anyone else. We are all guilty of the bucket of ice cream, the pile of kleenex, or the belly-aching in self-pity. We dump on our friends. We skip out on life. We abandon ourselves to wanton pleasure. We do all kinds of things in an effort to obtain the relief we desperately need. It’s our human nature to self-soothe; to deny; to neglect; to run; to hide; to defend; and to even become bitter.
It is not in our nature to confront pain appropriately.
To confront our pain appropriately we must know the Comforter.
Confrontation and comfort in any other context are mutually exclusive terms. However, confrontation is the only means for obtaining the comfort we need. We must learn to confront our pain. This is a deliberate decision requiring strength, wisdom, and tenacity that seeks ultimate resolution and restoration — whatever the cost. Healthy confrontation is an investment toward healing. It requires knowing the Comforter, who will always teach us how to engage and confront that specific instance causing us pain, harm, or hurt. The Spirit of Truth teaches us all things. For anyone willing to overcome those painful areas in their life, the Comforter is the only One who can supply the wisdom and tenacity needed to push forward and heal.
Knowing the Comforter means we seek His counsel first in every instance where there is pain. He knows our need for comfort and offers us a liberal supply. Comfort initially means obtaining some measure of relief. There are many times where He draws us away to green pastures and still waters. Why? So He can restore our soul. He lets us eat the ice cream and cry. He provides the getaway. He gives us the means and opportunity to settle and compose ourselves. We need time to gather and sort it out. He will provide us relief through very practical means that give us strength and solace — including angelic ministry if necessary. That is not wrong or contrary to scripture at all. He did that for Jesus and He does it for us. But He doesn’t stop there. He wants us to progress toward ultimate healing, and that requires a very supernatural divine strength which only He can provide. Not only does he provide us the initial comfort we need, He also provides His gifts of healing, wisdom, and knowledge with the intention of bringing us into ultimate wholeness. Pain killers are great, but they do not heal. The absence of pain felt is not, therefore, in itself an accurate indicator of healing.
Relief (the initial absence of pain) does not necessarily equate to ultimate healing.
Healing is only known by wholeness, which is determined by function.
When we are in pain we cannot function properly. Our responses are hindered and our perceptions are dulled. We need to also understand that inversely, dysfunction is not always accompanied by pain. There are many dysfunctions and disabilities that are otherwise “painless”. Wholeness is therefore, not ascertained by the absence or presence of pain. Wholeness is determined by proper function. Again, pain serves us as an indicator. Whether or not it’s present is not, by itself, a determination for wholeness.
We are consistently vulnerable to pain. Your ability to perceive it and respond appropriately are key. We pick up emotional, mental, and spiritual grime from people and circumstances we encounter every day. That is life. If you’re a mature Christian, many of these roll off effortlessly. But others require intervention — and that is where the Comforter steps in. But we must invite Him into that place where we are intimately vulnerable and hurting. While we experience these painful encounters, let us always remember that pain teaches us compassion and humility, and it will always point us toward dependency upon our heavenly Father who invites us into His life, love, light, and liberty. There is nothing that draws us to Him like pain. It’s after we’ve suffered that we truly appreciate His peace and the many pleasures He provides. If we get too comfortable in life, we are prone to wander from Him.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,” (Romans 8:18, KJV).
I personally believe it’s a wise practice to revisit or recount the activities of the day before the LORD at night before bed. I liken this to having a “spiritual bath” where all the daily grime is washed away by His blood, His Word, and His presence. This is when we can place our day before Him, recount instances, revisit our responses, and allow Him the opportunity to investigate, bringing His light and revelation. He teaches us what could have been done differently, and we are offered opportunities to repent and make things right. These daily “irritants” can easily be removed once we allow Him access. It’s when we deny Him that these areas fester and become infectious, meaning they spread, requiring a greater intervention. When we abide in Him, we can enter into His peace and remain in a state of emotional, mental and spiritual health that allows us to function optimally. We are cleansed and comforted. We are relieved of our burdens. We are made whole. We sleep well and awake refreshed.
But you don’t have to wait until bedtime to achieve resolution. And don’t wait until you’re in a state of peril that spirals out of control before you seek Him. Get Him involved in the instant whenever possible. Be immediate. I encourage you to welcome the Comforter into your life. Become vulnerable with Him. Allow Him access to your pain, hurt, irritations, aggravations, and those areas that are causing you distress. We all have them. He will bring the comfort and ultimate relief you desperately need and desire — and you will live in a state of consistent peace and wholeness that only He can provide.
Christ did not promise us a painless life.
He promised us the Comforter.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:15-16, KJV).
Whatever it is, be grateful for your pain and your ability to perceive it. Pain serves us so very well, just as God intended and designed. It is not your enemy, but your friend. It will always lead you toward the Comforter if you let it.
We all know that alleviating pain is not the answer for healing. Once pain is rightly detected, the goal is to remove the source of that pain — which is the real enemy. Only Christ, who is our Comforter, knows how to do that.
Confront your pain and discover the Comforter. He wants to bring you more than relief — He wants to bring you healing and make you whole.
Cheers & Shalom,