Jesus said to His team of twelve:
But the fact of the matter is that it is best for you that I go away, for if I don’t, the Comforter (helper) won’t come. If I do, he will—for I will send him to you. (John 16:7 TLB).
When He told them, He noticed their reaction. Despair. And why not? He was talking to them face-to-face—sometimes furrowed brow, usually on the verge of a smile. What or who will replace that? Who or what will take the place of Jesus on the water or speaking to the demonized?
I’ve been thinking about the day a few years ago when I drove out of the Nashville airport alone. I had put Carole on a plane to Iowa to be with her mother who was scheduled for heart surgery. I remember exact words I said as I pulled onto the Interstate and what I was feeling. I don’t travel well alone, and my concert-seminar commitments were expecting at least one pretty lady, maybe two. I had music tracks from our albums, with studio back-up singers. Carole and Debi sang back-up on some of my songs. I didn’t have a cellphone, but I could call Carole from any public phone. Just not the same as face to face!
I’m sure one of the disciples said to Jesus, “I miss you, already.”
How does a human give or receive comfort from a different time zone or zip code? How about from the spirit world to earth?
So, Jesus told his troupe that having an invisible friend would work for them better than having his (Jesus) face, arms, laughter, conversation, voice, and explanations. He also told them He would rise from the dead. Which He did! (Anyone who can pull that off and keep that promise should be listened to.) The convincing argument would be that Jesus in the flesh could be in one place at a time while Holy Spirit could be in five billion places at once. (Jesus didn’t explain how.)
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 ).
When I think of a comforter, the heavy blanket on our bed comes to mind as does the many images of friends being hugged by human comforters. The task of self-comforting came to mind. This does not replace Paraclete as our comforter, it moves His comforting from solely within a crisis, but includes His comforting as a life resource. A psychiatrist said that depression is hardwired into our brain. When we experience loss, disappointment, confusion, our body, soul, and spirit we “back off” to recoup energy and brain sustenance. But then what?
“People feel more anger, sadness, pain, worry, and stress than ever before since Gallup began tracking happiness-; but we cannot blame the rise of unhappiness on the pandemic alone. In fact, according to Gallup, unhappiness has been steadily climbing for a decade….”
Inc. Magazine recommends Blind Spot, Jon Clifton (CEO—Gallup) to help understand and bring change to mental illness:
It seems to me that Holy Spirit comforts us as a preparation.
From The Daniel Plan, by Rick Warren, D. Min., Dr. Daniel Amen, M.D., Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D., give us the habits and resources that prepare us, heal us, and give us energy. These great habits deal with toxic energy such as smoking, drinking, sleep deprivation, loneliness, sedentary lifestyle, as well as the list from Gallup.
- Food—There is a reason it is called “comfort food.”
Holy Spirit comforting is not an opiate to help us learn to be comfortable in our sadness, anger, depression, or ignorance. Walking in the Spirit is not dismissive of our pain. Comforting is affirmation of our dilemma. Holy Spirit comforting is about strengthening and companionship and movement toward eventual healing and strategies.
“Gaslighting” —is the word of the year-2022. It means, “behavior that’s mind manipulating, grossly misleading, downright deceitful.” We are living in a saturated environment of gaslighting. That can increase the emotional sensitivity the world is experiencing.
The scripture verse of 2022 is Isaiah 41:10:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
What makes that comforter on the bed comforting is what it does: it keeps us warm. We also have weighted comforters which makes a heavier affect. The reason the person hugging my grieving friends is a comforter is the feel of embrace. So, when Isaiah quotes God: “For I am with you…,” what is happening?
How does God “embrace” us or comfort us? Jesus said the Father would send The Comforter so we would not be orphans—“You’re not alone in this.” Sparrows and cats. Jesus made it very clear that in God’s eyes there is no creature over which it can be said, “Oh, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a bird. It is just a feral cat.”
Comfort greeting cards focus on loss. I’m thinking Holy Spirit comforting is broader than that. We need comforting when disappointment ravages us. Or, when we are feeling or thinking, or being incompetent, inadequate, beside ourselves, lacking clarity or direction. I think when we are scared, we need comfort that strengthens and helps us maintain stability to do what needs to be done. Stability that keeps us from being sucked into a dark hole. Comfort coming from our Friend Holy Spirit is spiritual energy—a positive infusion.
An injured young cat showed up on our daughter’s porch. Deborah suspected the kitten was rolled by a car or fell from a height Maybe a broken leg and bruised ribs. Now that the 4–8-week-old cat has decided Deb can be trusted she invites her touch. The kitten rolls over and asks to be belly scratched.
Turns out the kitten is older than guessed. Vet thinks she was pregnant when struck by the car and now has infection where her own kittens had been. Now she needs surgery. Comforting is now needed for pain, memories, and a mother’s loss.
A couple of days after the “kitten” went to the vet, one of our granddaughters let us know that one of her cats also needed to go the vet. Rachel thought her cat was in dire condition. The vet agreed as he found pneumonia. An overnight at the clinic appeared to help Gus the Cat. Rachel had adopted the cat when it became obvious it had been abandoned on her apt. parking lot. It was as if the two—Gus and Rachel—had found each other. The rescuer was relieved Gus would recover. Then, a day later, Gus died in Rachel’s arms. Now a different dimension of comfort was needed.
It has been about a month since the “kitten” whom Deb named “Hope” came into our lives. Setbacks, then rallying, more meds and belly rubs. Deb took Hope back to the vet. Something wasn’t working right. After the cat spent another night at the clinic, Debi went to pick up the stray cat who had started eating again. Hope! As Debi stepped into the clinic, the staff was busy trying to resuscitate the cat named Hope. Hope was gone.
Did Holy Spirit—the comforter—hear Jesus’ sermon about sparrows? How does He comfort us, now? Debi didn’t need the grief or weeks of sleepless nights. No one in our family has life insurance policies on our pets. We invested lots of prayers and energy. Does Holy Spirit comfort in such a way that disappointment doesn’t turn to anger, and decisions not to try again?
Deb texted us, “So Hope had a home, and a name and lots of love and was never hungry this last month. I’m glad I named her.” Later another text: “Walter the cat is staying close to me. I think my tears concern him.”
Trying to explain comfort as an entity and as an act is difficult. I do not want to sound as if I’m trivializing the isolation, pain, and heart break. Jesus knew what He was promising.
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To be comforted is an intimate and personal thing.
When I heard President Biden kissed Mrs. Macron on the lips, I wondered if she was pleased or wanted to quickly wipe it off with a shop cloth, followed by vigorous spitting. Comforting comes from a variety of sources.
“The Comforter Has Come”