…Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37–39—NKJV)

We all feel like we could do a better job bringing comfort to a friend in need when the chips are down. Rather than being the bulwark of strength and high tower of wisdom, we hear the words we share ring with a tinny tone and we vaguely suspect our thoughts resemble the same short-sighted wisdom and ineffectiveness as the comforters of Job. How can we get better at aiding in another’s distress?

The feeling of our own inadequacy to bring comfort to another is twin brother to the feeling that we are not efficiently drawing upon the work of the Comforter. Our text tells us that our Lord was speaking of “the Holy Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive.” Without authentic salvation, described as being born from above, the Holy Spirit will not be operative in a man’s life other than the grace of reproof (John 16:8–11) and of restraint of evil (2 Thessalonians 2:7–12). An unsaved person may be a good earthly comforter if he studies his craft well and has the temperament for it, but there will be a lack of a spiritual dynamic that refreshes the very roots of the soul and nourishes his own heart and that of others for time and for eternity.

Human “comforters” come in several forms. There is the “momentary comforter” who is the right guy at the right time in your hour of need. There is also the “brotherly comforter” who is the kindred spirit understanding your life and circumstances, knowing how and what you feel because he is currently walking the same road—not always full of answers because he is a fellow pilgrim. Then there is the “nurturing comforter” who refreshes with energizing comfort capable of filling the void of knowledge you are experiencing, equipping you for the present task and providing for the future. He generally lives above your circumstances but is unafraid of walking with you through the fire. You need to study to be each one of these kinds of comforters to others (2 Corinthians 1:3–7), especially the nurturing kind, the true disciple-maker.

The King James translation in John’s Gospel uses the word comforter or helper to translate the Greek verbal adjective “paraklete.” The word means “to call to one’s side, to aid.” It was a word describing a legal assistant in a court of justice, counsel for the defense, an advocate. Our Lord is our Advocate interceding for us with the Father according to 1 John 2:1–2. The Hebrews referred to their Messiah as “The Comforter” for He is the Consolation of Israel (Isaiah 12:1ff, 49:13). In John 7 and 14–16, our Lord announced that upon His ascension to glory He would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit to indwell and minister through His people. In the Holy Spirit, Church Age saints have a very present help, which “suggests the capability or adaptability for giving aid” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).

The richness of the Greek word is seen in the number of English words that are used to translate it in various Scriptures. At various times it is translated encourage (give help, courage, embolden, hearten, foster, support), console (in times of moderate loss—to help, support, cheer, especially making up for a disappointment), comfort (“com”—intensifier + “fortis”—strong, to make strong, to soothe in distress or sorrow, relief in distress or misery, calm, inspire with hope), or exhort (to urge, incite to action with advice or warning, to admonish, strengthen).

In John 14 through 16, our Lord explains the comforting ministry the Holy Spirit. He equips each believer to share “rivers of living water” flowing out to others. The Holy Spirit’s capacity of sufficiency is fully guaranteed to you (John 7:37–39). The Holy Spirit’s “all weather” constant availability is open to you, 24/7 (14:16–17). The Spirit of Truth indwells (makes His abode in you) so that you are never alone and never without. The characteristic work of the Holy Spirit is to teach you through the Word of God so that you are equipped to serve and you are granted peace even in the most boisterous, threatening storms of your life (14:26–27). His concentrated effort is working on you so you bear witness to Jesus Christ’s sovereignty, sacrifice, salvation, and sufficiency (15:26–27). The final word from our Lord concerning the great Comforter is that He comes alongside you to challenge ignorance in you while making up for your lack (16:7–15). A similar thought is expressed by Paul in Romans 8:26–27.

Are you born again and indwelt by the Spirit of God? Are you filling your days with Spirit-led decisions? Are you learning the art of being a real comforter to your fellow man (whether momentary, brotherly, or better still, nurturing comfort) by leaning heavily upon the Great Comforter every day of your life? Trust and obey.