The Great Comforter
Updated: Dec 31, 2022
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest: Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. -Matthew 11:28-29
Some days in life, I’m just worn down. That candle burning in my soul is down to the bottom of the wick, a lonely flame flickering on a tiny sea of wax, formless and without substance, nearly extinguished. This can be the result of so many things, stressors beyond our control, medical treatments being denied, extraneous threats, a career that has become overwhelming, or a schedule so busy we forget to take a breath and exhale. As a healthcare provider and mom of three kids, it’s a feeling I experience a lot. It’s times like these, when feeling weak and small, that I need to take some time to reflect on it all. Quiet time for introspection. Adequate space to breathe deeply. Re-harness all of my love and attention and focus on others who I am serving to pour back into my own cup with self-care.
It sounds like a bit of a New Age concept, but the idea of comforting one’s soul to refresh the spirit is found way back in Bible times. God created us humans as, well, 100% human. And as humans who have free will, we also have all of the other things that accompany freedom of thought, like emotions, intellect, mental fortitude, the ability to work, and our very will to survive in a world where we are frequently surrounded by threats requiring us to fight for our very existence. The idea of humans needing comfort, and the fact that the Bible mentions this issue relatively frequently in both the Old and New Testaments, has slowly overwhelmed my conscious thoughts this week as I look to renew, refresh, and regroup in this downtime between holidays.
In the book of Genesis 24, we read the story of Isaac, who had just recently lost his mother Sarah. He went out into the field to meditate, and came back home to find a new bride, Rebekah, sent by God, whose very presence comforted Isaac. Elijah was ministered to by angels while resting, giving him literal food and drink for 2 days to provide adequate sustenance for a 40 day stint in the mountains to avoid being killed by Ahab and Jezebel’s men (I Kings 19). In Job 42, God blessed Job with twice as much as he had before his lengthy trials of ill health and losing his children and all of his worldly belongings. God then sent his family and friends to empathize and comfort him for all he had gone through.
While these stories are intriguing in the variable ways in which God comforts His people, what is far more interesting is when the Bible does not go into details of how a person was comforted. In Psalm 86:17, David says God helped him and comforted him in a time of great need without divulging a detail more. Immediately after His baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus was driven by the Spirit, the Bible says, to go into the wilderness, where He fasted and was tempted by Satan for forty days. After this, God sent angels to minister to Jesus, who was no doubt weak and exhausted in mind, body, and spirit, but again, we don't really know by what means Jesus was comforted in Matthew 4 and Mark 1:17.
These plentiful examples of taking time to recharge fly in the face of my stoic German ancestry that dictates task achievement ahead of self-care for mental and emotional health. So I guess it’s no surprise when in recent months I faced gigantic attempts by others to knock my self-worth down to nothing, I was able to identify all of the ways in which God used songs, conversations, and Bible verses to comfort me. It just felt so out of the ordinary, yet so necessary, that I experienced and thanked God for sending these perfectly timed thoughts and interactions that filled my cup again, whether lying in a hospital bed, small talk during an ambulance transfer, conversing during an Uber ride, or interacting with a patient sharing my hospital room (they still do this in New York!). The hand of God was clear and unmistakable, granting exactly what I needed during a time I had no idea what to pray for, in precisely the moment I needed it. And wow, did I need it. Because the next knock down was right around the corner, amid some of the scariest medical events I’ve ever had.
And now that I’m back at home in Wisconsin, He’s doing it again. All I can say is, what an honor, and what a privilege to feel the Holy Spirit doing what only the Holy Spirit can do so well. Ministering to the soul in the most unexpected ways.
When I say God is good at the end of a Facebook post, it’s because He really is. He’s very good, all the time, every time. Whether I think I need His help or pridefully think that I’ve got this one all by myself, He laughs at my miserable mis-estimation of my own needs and my ability to fill them, all the while graciously providing all that my soul requires. Words I can’t express when my thoughts and emotions are entangled worse than my jumbled-up oxygen tubing, charging cord, and phone charger. I can’t decipher anything, and yet He effortlessly fills my cup to overflowing, so I, in turn, can minister to others.
It’s amazing what God can do when I let go of my human pride. The guilt of not accomplishing a more significant and tangible task with my time when taking a moment to refresh my soul is gone. The fear that I am not doing enough to help myself or others is alleviated. And the control that I cling to for dear life has a chance to be cured, as God works on my heart, slowly opening my fist one clenched, white knuckled finger at a time. The peace of God is real when we allow Him access to all of us, our thoughts, our time, our heart, and our soul. And it takes a peaceful mind and spirit to allow God to work in us and through us to do His will in this world, to influence others for good.
Jill Murphy is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and founder of MotionWorks Physical Therapy and an advocate for patient-centered care. A Christian wife and mother of three, she survived a seven year journey through the broken American healthcare system in search for an answer to a heart arrhythmia that appeared during pregnancy. A stroke, open heart surgery for constrictive pericarditis, and several other surgeries later, Jill is telling her story of unfailing resilience in her upcoming book, Doctor Heal Thyself.
Having grown up on a dairy farm 40 minutes from Lambeau Field, Jill is an avid Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers fan, and is up for any outdoor activity with her three children, including walking, biking, throwing the football around, hiking in scenic locales, gardening, and coaching a middle school basketball game or two.