Skip to main content

When I think of “comfort,” I think of the $5 stretchy pants I pulled out of a clearance bin at Old Navy a dozen years ago. These are the pants I apologize for in public – “I’m sorry, I didn’t think I’d have to get out of the car!”

Here in the 21st century, “comfort” means my felt needs are met. I am fed, dressed in stretchy pants, and put to bed. (Sounds pretty great, right?) But when the Bible speaks of comfort, it’s talking about something much more substantial. The word “comfort” comes from the Latin root, fortis, which means strength

Think fortify – to strengthen against attack. 

Think fortitude – courage in the face of pain or adversity.

Think fortress – a stronghold.

Comfort is no soft word. It’s mighty, and so are the implications of it. 

Who Is the God of All Comfort?

When Paul writes of the “God of all comfort” in 2 Corinthians 1:3, he uses the Greek word paraklesis for comfort. This word has four distinct meanings:

  1. A calling near; a summons
  2. An earnest and humble pleading
  3. An exhortation or encouragement
  4. Consolation and solace; that which refreshes

When we put all these definitions together, we see a glimpse of the Father’s heart for us. As surely as this world is full of pain, there is a God who calls us into His presence. Earnestly and humbly, He invites us to experience true solace in Him. He is not a God who forces. He is a God who pleads: Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

Comfort is more than what God does. It is who He is. It’s the very essence of His heart. Like a parent overcome by love, He can’t help but stretch out His arms toward a suffering child, even when that child has made a mess of everything.

How Does God Feel About Messed Up People?

This Advent at Grace, we’re studying a non-traditional passage of Scripture. It’s not the birth story of Jesus. It’s the story of a rebellious people on the brink of ruin. They’re called the Israelites, and in Isaiah, they’re warned that they’ll be taken into Babylonian captivity because of their idolatry. For 70 years, they will be enslaved. They will grow old, raise their children, and bury their dead in exile. 

Then, suddenly, in Isaiah 40, the narrative shifts: “Comfort, comfort My people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2). 

Isaiah prophesies that the era of captivity will not last forever. God will redeem and restore His people. He will come to their rescue as Warrior, and He will lead them home as Shepherd: “See the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and He rules with a mighty arm … He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart” (Isaiah 40:10-11).

My mind jumps unbidden to the image of my husband tucking our baby girl into his coat on freezing winter mornings in Kentucky. He loved to strap her to his chest with a long piece of cloth, called a Moby wrap. He would face her outward, pull a hat around her ears, and zip his coat up to her chin. At first glance, passersby wouldn’t even notice her. Then suddenly, they’d see a little face poking out of the middle of his coat and oh, the joy! He could’ve taken her for walks in many different ways – on his hip or in a stroller – but no. He wanted to hold her right up against his heart, not for duty, but delight.

To hold His child against His heart will always be God’s truest instinct, no matter how sinful the child. In fact, like any good Father, the greater the brokenness, the greater His longing to comfort. 

How Do I Find Joy?

Nothing magnifies heartache quite like the twinkly tease of yuletide joy. This Christmas, the farther you feel from perfection, the more your opportunity to embrace the real beauty of Advent. For just a moment, erase those images of porcelain place settings and steaming mugs of cocoa. Picture, instead, steaming piles of cow dung. Flies and sweat. A virgin’s agony, a husband’s terror, the tang of blood in the air as a baby wails into the darkness. 

This is the world Jesus entered. 

And ever since, He has longed to enter yours. Your real world. Your felt pain. Your weakness and longing. Jesus comes with true comfort – fortis – strength in the face of adversity. 


Looking for a place to celebrate Advent? We’d love to meet you! Join us for a 4-week Advent series at Grace, called Comfort and Joy: Good Tidings for Hard Times. 

Leave a Reply