After speaking at a conference once, I spoke with a young man who had suffered from a mental disability all his life. But what he lacked in intellectual capability he did not in theological insight. He said to me that sometimes he asks God why he had to be born with his disability. His brother, he told me, is a smart engineer but an atheist. He said, “Sometimes I ask God, ‘why?’”
So I asked him, “What answer does God give you?”
He paused for a couple seconds and finally answered, “Just that he loves me.”
It was one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard.
We may not always (or ever) understand the ways of God’s providence, why he makes us certain ways or leads us through certain things. But one thing we can know: looking at the cross, we are very loved.
This is perhaps the chief way the Holy Spirit comforts us in our afflictions. He reminds us of what Christ has done for us. And this is not because the Spirit is at a loss as to how to encourage us. He’s not like our well-meaning friends who like to spout cheap inspirational clichés and lame pick-me-ups, mainly out of their own discomfort at our pain. He knows the biggest help we could ever get is from the power of the gospel. And the Spirit’s reminding us of the gospel is entirely according to plan, just as Jesus said:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)
The Holy Spirit comes to us in our moments of suffering and reminds us of the sufferings of Christ for us, that we are not alone nor or ever, because of the great and eternal love of God given to us through Jesus. Another way to put this is that the Holy Spirit comforts us by reminding us of God’s love.
It is tempting especially in times of darkness to feel abandoned or unloved. Even if others are showing us love, we can doubt the love of God because of the pains we face that only he can alleviate. For some reason he won’t. We begin to reason, like Job’s friends, that we have done something to deserve our disability, our depression, our debilitating pains. But the same Spirit who groans with us in Romans 8:26 reminds us of Romans 8:1—“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Our great Helper gently and firmly teaches us about Christ, bringing to our remembrance all Christ did for us, including dying. If you are ever tempted to doubt God’s love for you, look at the cross!
The love of God is the most precious thing any person could ever know. It will sustain you like nothing else can and when nothing else will. It will encourage you through the darkest moments of your life. The love of God was put on you, child of God, before the world was even created(!), and it will carry you through your dying day and into the blissful joy of eternal reunion with the source of love himself.
“God is love,” the apostle John tells us (1 John 4:8). This means that in his inter-Trinitarian self, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit share an abounding love for each other that has overflowed and spilled into the bounds of creation, bringing even sinners like us to taste the goodness of God’s divine nature.
The love of God, the psalmist says, is better than your next breath (Ps. 63:3), and so when all else gives way, whether you die young or old, when your eyes close each time in anguished prayer or for the final time, and your lungs give their final whisper, and your heart gives its last beat, the love of God will still be there, never stopping, never ending, lifting you up to glory. And on the day of resurrection, when you enjoy the fullness of creation in a restored earth, it will be love that empowers you and all the redeemed creation, and it will be the love of God that drives our worship of Jesus forever.
When you’re tempted to think God has reached his limit with you, the Spirit reminds you that “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end” (Lam. 3:22).
When you feel like God has abandoned you, the Spirit reminds you, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).
When you expect to be rejected by Christ, the Spirit reminds you that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for you, that where he is, you will be also (John 14:3).
When you are racked by insecurity, the Spirit reminds you that you are safely in the hands of Jesus and nothing can snatch you away (John 10:29).
When you are overcome by fear, the Spirit reminds you that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) and that his own indwelling presence in your life is not conducive to fear, but to power, love, and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). Indeed, “you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons” (Rom. 8:15).
When you are just flat-out overwhelmed by life, and it seems like one thing after another, and you’re tired and desperate and feel hopelessly lost, the Spirit reminds you that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39).
We could go on and on, because the gospel goes on and on. And the Holy Spirit sent by Christ to comfort us will go on and on to apply it to our hearts in the pain of our darkest days. And when our darkest days are no more, we will go on and on, celebrating the gospel with him for all eternity.