George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
Folk Who Are a Comfort to Us
These...have been a comfort unto me--Col 4:11
Others Can Be Our Paregoric
The word comfort in our text is a very interesting word. This is the only place where it occurs in the books of the New Testament. It is quite another word the Lord uses when He speaks of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. When He says, "I will not leave you comfortless," that, too, is an entirely different word. The term which is used here, and here alone in the whole range of the New Testament, is our English word paregoric. Now paregoric, in Greek just as in English, is one of accepted terms of medicine. Paregoric is a doctor's word. And one likes to think that the Apostle Paul in his employment of such a word as this betrays, it may be quite unconsciously, the influence of the beloved physician Luke. I suppose that every real friendship has an influence upon the words we use. When we admire anybody very much, we often find their words upon our lips. And Paul, who like so many other people had an intense admiration for his doctor, would naturally use the words of Luke.
Paregoric Mitigates Pain
And certainly he could not have used a more appropriate or delightful word. Are you aware what paregoric means? I consulted my English dictionary to see how paregoric was defined, and I found that paregoric was a medicine that mitigates or alleviates pain. And what could be more delightful than the thought that there are men and women who are just like that--they mitigate or alleviate our pain. Pain is one of the conditions of our being. Pain is something nobody escapes. All life is rich in pain, as the throat of the bird in the spring is rich in song--the pain of striving, the pain of being baffled, the pain of loneliness and incompleteness, the pain of being misunderstood. There are people who augment that pain, sometimes without meaning it. How often is the pain of life increased by those unfortunate people who mean well. But who has not numbered in his list of friends somebody whose Christlike ministry has been to alleviate the pain of life? Such were the apostle's paregoric. Such are the paregoric of us all; often humble people, not in the least distinguished and not at all conspicuous for intellect; yet somehow, in the wear and tear of life and amid its crosses and its sorrows, mitigating and alleviating pain.
Paregoric in Our Family and Friendly Circles
Often those who alleviate life's pain, who are paregoric in the apostle's sense, are the members of our family circle, the dear ones who dwell with us at home. There was a time in Principal Rainy's life when he was the most hated man in Scotland. Scarcely a week passed in which the newspapers had not some venomous attack upon him. And all the time, neither in face nor temper did Rainy show one trace of irritation, but carried himself with a beautiful serenity. One day Dr. Whyte met him and said, "Rainy, I cannot understand you. How do you manage to keep serene like this, exposed to all these venomous attacks?" And Rainy answered without an instant's pause: "Whyte, I'm very happy at home." The wounds were deep, but there were hands at home that were always pouring balm into the wounds; gentle, kindly ministries at home that mitigated and alleviated pain. And how many there are in every rank of life who find their courage to endure in secret sweet comforting like that. In the perfect trust of little children, in their innocence and blessed ignorance, in the love of someone who is dear, who understands yet is always bright and hopeful, how many men have plucked up heart again, found the bitter pain of life alleviated, been strengthened for their battle with the world.
Again, think of the comfort that we get from any friend who really understands us. Such appreciative and understanding souls--are these not the apostle's paregoric? Our Lord knew that. Never was man misunderstood as He. Misunderstood when He spoke or would not speak--misunderstood in every deed He wrought--misunderstood upon the cross. Think of the exquisite pain of it for that sensitive and sinless heart--fresh from the understanding of high heaven, that constant misunderstanding of mankind. And then there came an hour when Simon Peter inspired by the Holy Ghost cried, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." It thrilled our blessed Master to the depths. Life was different. He was understood. How instantly did it alleviate and mitigate the bitter pain He had to bear. And whenever in this difficult life of ours God sends us somebody who understands, is it not always paregoric to the soul? To have somebody whom we can trust--who, we are sure, will never misinterpret--who never judges us except in love--who appreciates and understands--what earthly comfort in all the range of comfort can for one moment be compared with that?
Comforting Others Without Realizing It
There is one thing more I want to say and that, too, was in the apostle's mind. Remember you can be a comfort to another though you never know anything about it. Just as the finest influence we exercise is often that of which we are unconscious, so the greatest comfort that we bring is often the comfort we know nothing of--not our preaching nor our words of cheer, but the way in which we bear ourselves in life when the burden is heavy and the sky is black. "No man liveth to himself." Let men or women behave gallantly and behave so because they trust in God when life is difficult, when things go wrong, when health is falling, when the grave is opened; and though they may never hear a whisper of it, there are others who are thanking God for them. Every sorrow borne in simple faith is helping other men to bear their sorrows. Every burden victoriously carried is helping men and women to be braver. Every cross, anxiety, foreboding, shining with the serenity of trust, comes like light to those who sit in darkness. People say sometimes, "I would give anything to comfort so and so." Dear friend, if you walk in light and love, you are a comfort when you never know it. And other people, writing their epistle (though it will never be equal to Colossians), will put your name in to your intense surprise and say,"You were a comfort unto me."
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