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Jack Graham - The God of All Comfort

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    Jack Graham - The God of All Comfort
TOPICS: HELP!, Comfort, Grief

Second Corinthians, chapter 1 says, "Blessed be the God and Father", that is, praise be to the God and Father, "of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort, too". Everyone in life experiences pain, sorrow, grief, tears. No one is exempt. The proverb, the ancient Spanish proverb says: "There's never been a home without it's hush". We've all been in that place described as The Shadowland by C. S. Lewis, the Shadowland, living in the valley of the shadow.

Grief. We all have poured out tears from time to time, whether it is loss, and that's what grief is about, it's loss. And I say parenthetically before we even get started here, and importantly, that if you're loved one has passed away and is in heaven, you didn't lose them. You don't lose things when you know where they are. And so, we know that they're not lost, but they have left, and that brings great grief. It's loss of any kind. Grief is described as that intense emotional suffering caused by loss, disaster, misfortune. It's deep sadness. It's more than the usual up and downs of life, it is grief at the deepest level. It is heartbreak, it is heartache.

No wonder Jesus said to His disciples, facing the cross. He said, "Don't let your heart be troubled. You believe in God; believe in Me". He prepared them for what's to come. And that's our goal here today. Not only to prepare you, but to comfort you with the word of God. It's intense emotional suffering. It can be the loss of life, the loss of a loved one, it can be the loss of health, it can be the loss of a marriage, it can be the loss of a career and yet we are comforted by the God of all comfort. Christians are not exempt from grief. You know that; we all now that. As a pastor I have walked with literally thousands of people at funeral homes, memorial services, graveside, the long arduous journey, and I've watched God comfort them in ways that could only be described as supernatural as the power of Christ and the comfort of God surrounds us.

And why do people who are Christians cry? Because, you know, we feel it perhaps even more deeply that others. We love deeply and therefore, we hurt deeply when we lose someone or something dear and near to us. So we have real tears. One of the worse things that anyone can do with grief is to repress it or suppress it. But we must release it to God and release it to the people of God. More about that in just a moment. Jesus actually said, "Blessed are you who mourn". It's in the Beatitudes. "Blessed are you who mourn, happy are you who mourn, for you will be comforted". And it is in the comfort that we smile again, even though it is through tears. We can live again, we can love again, we can experience life to the fullest again because we have been comforted by God.

That verse at the top of our chapter here, says, "the God of all comfort". He is the source of our comfort. "The God of all comfort"! That includes the one who is described as "the Father of all mercies". Lamentaions 3:23, "His mercies are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness". God is near and dear to the brokenhearted, and He is God the Father who envelopes us, embraces us with His love, and His love will never let you go. God loves you! Let that sink in for just a moment. And His love is an everlasting love. God the Father. He is the God of all comfort. God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is it that so many broken people ran to Jesus for help? Hurting people!

Did you notice in His ministry, in His Gospel trek, His trek on this earth in His humanity, how He was always with the brokenhearted, the broken people? He was near to people who needed Him the most. The Pharisees, the self-righteous, the religious crowd wanted nothing to do with Jesus except to crucify Him and get Him out. But the hurting, the broken, they ran to Jesus. Why? Because He understands our pain and our sorrow and our grief. The Bible says in the book of Isaiah, the prophecy of Isaiah, "He's a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief". And when Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins, He also carried our sorrows; He carried our grief; He carried our sorrows.

"What a friend we have in Jesus! All our sins and griefs to bear; What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer". Jesus is the friend of sinner, but He's the friend the sorrowful as well, the hurting who need healing, including those with broken hearts. The God of all comfort, God the Father of mercy, Jesus the Savior who on the cross demonstrated His love for us and bore our pain and suffering on the cross. We have a high priest that understands our pain and our suffering. Not one far removed from us, but Jesus came to earth in His humanity, not so He could find out how much it hurt, so that he could, you know, understand more. He already understood more. He came to earth and bore our sins and bore our sorrows, so that we would know He understands! He's been there! He's done that! Not a distant deity somewhere out there, not religion but Jesus, the God of all comfort.

And then Jesus said in the dark night of His own soul, approaching the cross, in the upper room, His disciples were fearful and anxious about what was about to take place, and Jesus said, "Look, I'm not going to leave you alone. I'm going to send you another, one just like Me, the paraclete, the Holy Spirit, the one called along side you, the Helper, the Comforter". And the Comforter has come the Holy Spirit is with us. His living presence is within us. And the Comforter has come to encourage us with the very living presence of God our Savior. So, when this verse says the God of all comfort it's this God. Religion cannot comfort because all the founders of religion are dead and gone! But Jesus, the God of all comfort, He comforts us and with the comfort with which we are comforted, we comfort others.

There are some ways that I want to give you in this message that will help you not just get through, but grow through, and even glow through the griefs of your life, the pain and the sorrow of your life. So, I would encourage you, perhaps, to write these things down. You can share them with others. You know, there's a panorama of emotions that are involved with grief. Emptiness, sadness, numbness. Some of you will recognize them. Some are experiencing them right now, but bitterness, anger, guilt, fear, anxiety, depression, self-pity, helplessness, despondency, even despair. A broken heart can take your life. I'm convinced that my own dear mother died of a broken heart, just trying to live through the grief and the loss, the death of my father. You can die of a broken heart. But our prayer is that you will live with a broken heart, and let your broken heart bless others. And here's how you do this. This is how the God of all comfort comforts us, so that we can comfort others.

Number one, in grief God draws you close to Himself, in grief God draws us closer and closer to Him. Psalm 34:18 says, "God is near the brokenhearted". To those who are crushed in spirit. It feels like a crushing, doesn't it? Feels like a crucifixion when you grieve. And yet, God draws near to each one of us. God draws you close to Himself. James 4:8, "Draw near to God, He draws near to you", and He is always there. Hebrews 13:5, "He never leaves us or forsakes us". When you read Psalm 23, the great and famous Psalm 23, written by David, the shepherd king, David, most likely in this passage, this great poem is looking back on his life and the tender care of God as the Shepherd.

He was a shepherd boy himself and so when he thought of God, the God of all comfort, he thought of the shepherd and care and compassion of God, and he wrote: Psalm 23:1, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want". And he begins, I often remind grieving people of this great truth regarding the Twenty-third Psalm. He begins by talking about the Lord. It's a beautiful testimony. Psalm 23:1-3, "The Lord is my Shepherd: I shall not want. He leads me beside the still waters. He leads me in righteousness for His name's sake". He's talking beautifully of the Lord and the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd. He's talking about the Lord. But then, he says, "Yea, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death". So he walks into the valley of the shadow of death. And there he experiences the presence of God, the care and the comfort of God. He says, "Yea, though I walk through this valley of shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Your rod, your staff, they comfort me".

Notice he walked through the valley because you know shadows, the valley of the shadow. It's a literal place that we visit when we're Israel out in the Judean desert. It's creviced canyons and in the ancient world there were robbers and thieves. It was literally a valley of the shadow of death. Remember C. S. Lewis' statement I mentioned earlier, "The Shadowland". This is The Shadowland. These are the badlands really. And so, you can look at that crevice today and it really looks torturous and tumultuous to walk through there. And yet, he said you walk not just in but through. If you're in the valley of the shadow of death, God promises you're coming out on the other side! Because shadows may scare you, shadows may frighten you, but they can never hurt you when you know the Lord! Because ultimately the shadows fall behind us when we turn our face to the Son.

When we turn our faces to the Lord, the shadows fall behind us. And so David takes that walk through the valley of the shadow and comes out on the other side. And then instead of talking about the Lord, he starts talking to the Lord. Psalm 23:4-5, "Your rod, your staff, they comfort me. You anoint my head with oil. You prepare a table before me in the wilderness". You see the difference? Before, he was talking about the Lord; beautiful testimony of God. But then when he goes through the dark valley, he's closer to God, closer to God, and now he's talking to the Lord. Draw near to the Lord and God draws closer to us. And I tell you this: God will be more real to you in times of tears than at any other time in your life.

Number two, God grieves with you. Know that! When Jesus went to the tomb of His good friend Lazarus, he had died, he stood outside that tomb and, chapter 11 of John's Gospel, verse 35, the one who is the resurrection and the life. It says He stood there, the shortest verse in the Bible, verse 35, and yet sacred ground because sacred tears flowed from His sacred head and eyes, because the Bible says "Jesus wept". These tears were not trickles as described in the language of the New Testament, but copious tears, flowing, heaving, sobbing, weeping. And the same Savior who wept at Lazarus tomb in the face of death and sorrow, weeps with us. He's been to the cross, He's suffered with us. God grieves with you. He understands. This is why so many people run to Him. They go to God; they go to Jesus when they hurt because they know He's the one who understands. Oh, we'll understand it better by and by! Our questions, our whys and why-nots will be answered in eternity. But until then it's enough to know that He knows, that He understands our pain and our suffering and our hurt, and we can leave the burden with Him. God grieves with you. Do you believe that?

Number three, God gives you a church family. When you grieve as a believer and follower of Christ, God gives you a church family. We are not meant to grieve alone! To isolate yourself or insulate yourself from people is one of the worse things you can do when you're sad. And although there are times you don't want to see anybody, be with anybody, and there are seasons for that. But ultimately you need to get up and get going again and get with people who love you and care about you. And it is at the church of the Lord Jesus Christ where people like we have experienced the goodness of God, the grace of God in our grief, and we have been comforted by the God of all comfort, and we can comfort others.

It is one of the key ministries of this church and any church to minister to hurting people, to grieve with those who grieve. The Bible says we mourn with those who mourn. The Bible says bear one another's burdens, and that word burden Is also a word that is used for sorrow in the Bible. Galatians 6:2, "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ". Because, look, there are some people, some here today, some watching online, you're staggering beneath a heavy burden, the weight! You're stumbling, and you need somebody to come along and help you carry the weight! Why would you keep carrying this on your own, when there's someone who loves God and who loves you who will help you carry this? You need God and you need God's people in His church.

Number four, God uses grief to help you grow. It is in grief that we grow in the dark. And as I said, we glow in the dark ultimately, but our dependence upon God increases, our obedience to God. There are lessons that we learn in suffering that can be learned nowhere else. Don't waste your sorrow. Learn everything that you can learn when you're walking in darkness and grief.

Number five, God gives you the hope of heaven. You can grieve because God gives you the hope of heaven not only for those you may be grieving about, but those yourself, you're grieving yourself. And yet when you focus on not what is lost but don't focus on what is lost, focus on what is left, and what is left is the promises of God and the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. It's impossible to live without hope. I don't know how people get through the things they try to get through without the God of hope and the God of all comfort. There is hope because Christ is coming again. He said, "Don't let your hearts be troubled; you believe in God, believe in Me". Said, "I go to prepare a place for you and I'm coming again to you".

I can't tell you how many times I've stood before memorial services, funeral services, cemeteries, graveyards, funeral homes, and quoted the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep. (That is, those who have died before us.) I would not have you be uninformed about those who are asleep, ignorant, brothers, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as those who have no hope". We sorrow; our tears are real! But they are not hopeless tears! Our crying is not the cry of despair; it is the cry of hope! "We do not sorrow as those who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them who sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain, shall not precede them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, and the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so will we ever be with the Lord".

But it doesn't end there. It says, "Therefore comfort one another with these words". Comfort one another with a word, a promise in a future with God. You know, when you come along side people, you don't need to preach sermons or even quote a lot of verses. Just be there as a person of hope. Point people to Jesus and point people to heaven, and love them. But it is in grief, whatever grief, and there are different kinds of grief. It may be death, it may be the loss of loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of a marriage, whatever your grief, you're ultimately comforted in the comfort that God gives us-the hope of heaven. And one day, one day, one day He's going to wipe away all tears from our eyes! But until then, and the last thing is this: God uses your heartbreak to help others. God's going to wipe away our tears, but until then God will use your hurt and your hand to wipe away people's tears, to weep with those who weep, to grieve with those who grieve, to be present when people are alone and feeling so lost and so lonely.

No one should ever feel alone. They should know God's presence and our presence. And so, what God does is He takes our tears and, yes, He turns them into telescopes so we can see God more clearly, but He turns them into testimonies, and our tears testify that even in pain and sorrow and grief that we are comforted and we are blessed. So, we praise God through the pain. He starts the whole thing by saying: "Blessed be God! Praise Thee to God, the Father of mercies, the God of all comfort". And when you praise Him through tears... Look, there are some people want to know: Is your faith real? Is your faith real when you are at the bottom, when you are in the pit, when you are in the darkness, when you are grieving so much, when you've cried your eyes out? Is your God real? What a witness! What a witness it is to say when you come to the place where Jesus is all you have; He is all you need!
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