Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow toward us, so also our comfort through Christ overflows to you. (2 Cor. 1:3-5)
The comfort we receive comes from God; and that comfort is given to us so that we might comfort others. The word in Greek translated here as comfort is a form of the same word Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit - the Comforter, the Advocate, the Counselor, the Paraclete - the one who stands by us and helps us, encouraging and strengthening us. We are to be for others what the Spirit of God is for us.
But sometimes it is hard to comfort. Sometimes the comforts we offer are not heeded, though they come from God through us. We are a stiff necked people, and we prefer the old ways that have led us to darkness as opposed to the new ways that lead us to light, and so we often reject true comfort, true help from true friends.
I know a very bright person who has rebelled against the constraining pressure put on her by the lies she has been fed all her life - the destructive lies that to look good counts for much, that beauty and sex is a form of power, a way to control others, that worldly success vindicates a person and justifies his or her existence. She pushes back against this, but secretly she is allured by it. She thinks if she could just lose another twenty pounds, everything would change. She could walk into a room and feel in control, in command; she would not feel so inadequate. Of course, she had lost that twenty pounds once or twice before and it never really made her life any better. She spends her time building internet personas, puppets of herself that she can control, perfectly crafted images that she can use to dominate any situation she's in - at least in the make-believe world of the world wide web.
Think this is ridiculous, readers? Think you or I would never be this shallow? Well, how many times do we ourselves think, "If I just had that edge. If I just had that little zing, I would have it made." Maybe it's a nicer car, a better wardrobe, a sexier body, more money. Or something more personal. "If I only had a man in my life I was dating or married to, I wouldn't feel like such a failure." "If I could finally find that dream job, I wouldn't complain as much as I do day in and day out." "If I could only pay off my credit card debt, I'd be happy."
Well, it's not as if these things don't matter. Looking good, losing twenty pounds, getting married, getting a good job, having money - these things are in and of themselves good. But they are not true comforts.
They are not a true friend at your side, helping you when you feel your worst, comforting you with the comfort your friend has received from God; for as St. Paul suffered and bore afflictions and was comforted, so he was able to share these divine gifts with the Corinthians to whom he writes the passage I quoted above.
We know what it's like to have bad friends, friends who take a hike the minute your fortunes change or as soon as you become less useful to them than you once were. And the betrayal of friendship stings harder than any other thing in life - false love hurts more than being fat, being poor, being ugly. Because it's not comforts we seek. We seek comfort, the parakletos, the one at our side.
We seek the Spirit of God.
And we have it; we have Him. And in sharing Him with others - sharing the "comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God," we find Him more completely.