God Himself Will Comfort And Strengthen You!
The Christmas season is one that signifies great joy and celebration — from elegantly decorated main streets and storefronts to colorful stockings on fireplace mantles and brightly lit trees in homes across the world.
And so it should be. Jesus is and always will be the real “reason for the season”! Christmas should be a joyous celebration of the day Christ came to earth in “swaddling clothing” as a Babe in that Bethlehem manger (see Luke 2:4-7). It was truly a remarkable time in human history — when God came to earth to save mankind from our eternally lost condition and to redeem us to Himself as His very own sons and daughters. That is something to be deeply grateful and joyful about!
But Christmas can also be a time when many feel deep anguish and pain over some great loss in their lives. Even if they’re progressing through the various stages of grief toward the healing of their hearts and emotions, holidays have a way of magnifying their loss and tempting their emotions into overdrive. Maybe you can relate to my words.
I’m going to briefly share one such incident in my own family’s lives. I trust it will help you and bless you as you read how God in His mercy lifted us from the depths of despair during one particularly excruciating Christmas season.
I was a college freshman when my Grandmother Renner was hospitalized over the Christmas holiday with a heart condition. My Grandpa Renner — a man who’d been a strong influence in my life — had to be home alone for several weeks while my grandma was in the hospital.
Many in our family noticed that Grandpa had begun acting oddly during those weeks, but we attributed it to the medication he was taking for severe arthritis. He seemed to be thinking irrationally a lot, lost in the fog of his imaginations.
One day while I was home from the university on holiday break, my father called me and said, “Grandpa isn’t answering the phone, and he hasn’t been to the hospital to see Grandma today. She’s worried about him. It’s not normal that no one has heard from him. Would you meet me at their house so we can make sure everything is all right?”
It is with a measure of sadness even today that I write to you that everything was not all right at Grandpa Renner’s. I met my dad there at the house, which was locked. After knocking at the door for a couple of minutes, we ventured into Grandpa’s garage to see if he was perhaps busy doing something in there. To our absolute horror, we discovered that my grandfather had taken his life.
I will never forget that moment, and the great grief that overtook my father. However, in that exact moment, the Holy Spirit filled me with a tangible sense of His power so I could be a supernatural support to my dad in that moment of intense sorrow and shock.
Within minutes, our pastor arrived as well as medical workers, who arrived by ambulance to examine my grandfather and transport him to the morgue. As if that situation wasn’t difficult enough, Dad and I then had to go to the hospital to break the horrific news to Grandma. When we told her, she and Dad simply held each other and cried. It was a sight I shall never forget as long as I live.
That following year, we were all in dread of Christmas because we knew it would remind us of the previous year’s tragedy, and we knew that we would feel Grandpa’s absence and potentially have to relive the pain of those emotions all over again.
However, that was not the case at all. God was with us in a mighty way that Christmas season. There’s no other way to explain it than to say His grace was simply upon us. The Holy Spirit comforted us and helped us move forward without the deep, crushing grief we were admittedly anticipating. It was truly miraculous to see how God worked to help us through what could have been a very difficult time.
When I think of that heart-wrenching moment, my thoughts go to Second Corinthians 1:3 and 4, where Paul wrote, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
In verse 3, Paul called God the Father of “mercies.” The Greek word oiktirmos, which describes compassion, lament, or sorrow. It tells us that God completely understands and identifies with the suffering soul.
The word “comfort” was translated from parakalesis, which describes the encouragement, consolation, and comfort that one provides to another who is undergoing bereavement, hardship, or suffering. It speaks of encouragement in a time of desperate need.
When these words “mercies” and “comfort” are used together, they tell us that God Himself comes to the assistance of those who are suffering difficulty, whether physical or emotional.
In verse 4, Paul continued, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” The word “tribulation” in Greek is thlipsis, and it depicts a crushing pressure — something beyond what a normal human being can undergo or survive without help.
This tells us that when Paul wrote these words, he was suffering immensely. But God “comforted” him — that is, God stood by Paul and gave him the strength he needed to go through the trial successfully. As a result, Paul was able to “…comfort them which are in any trouble.”
Perhaps there is nothing more powerful than a personal testimony, and Paul himself could testify that God had sustained him through a crushing period of his life. He had been “comforted by God” — God stepped forward to personally sustain and encourage Paul and assure him that he would make it through the end of his trial.
This is precisely what my family experienced when Grandpa Renner took his life. At the time, it felt crushing, debilitating, and so very painful. However, God stepped forward to personally strengthen us through that heartbreaking ordeal. As a result, we can confidently and compassionately tell others that, regardless of what they might face in life, God will be with them and will sustain them to the end! He is the God of all comfort, and He is faithful to help us through each and every trial.
I trust that what I shared with you will help you or someone you know this Christmas season. Not only is God the God of all mercies and comfort, He is the Healer and Restorer of broken hearts and lives. Denise and I and our team are praying that you will draw closer to Him this Christmas than you ever have before. His Word gives you the assurance that He will draw close to you (see James 4:8)!
If you have a special prayer request that you would like to share with us, we would consider it an honor to pray with you and stand with you about the answer you seek. We really do want to be your prayer partners!
We love you and thank God for you!
We are your brother and sister, your friends, and your partners in Jesus Christ,
Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families
Testimony From RENNER Ministries in Russia
I want to testify of a miracle God made due to your prayers. In September, I asked you to pray for my son so that he would be delivered from an addiction, and begin to serve God. In October, my son made a decision to get treatment in a Christian rehabilitation center. Also, his wife came to church and repented. Now my son is totally free, and he and his wife are serving God! Thank you for your prayers and faith!
Svetlana, Novosibirsk, Russia