"At least there are more good people in the world than bad," sighed an acquaintance in the aftermath of a community tragedy. The public shooting of several local government officers had rocked citizens in and around this small city.
Too many people have experienced community violence. Whether someone is close to a tragedy or watching a newscast, it can be hard not to give in to shock or despair. People talk about biting their lips or looking for silver linings in clouds of trouble. They're actually looking for comfort.
My friend's statement was a familiar and touching attempt at consolation – a way of steeling himself and staving off sadness. I'd been at the point of thinking "things could be worse," too. But I've learned that just managing reactions or concealing emotions usually leaves me feeling disheartened and helpless under the surface.
Genuine comfort, like the warmth of a mother's arms and the justice of a father's setting things right, is possible for all of us, no matter what we're facing. It flows from divine Love, "the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort" (II Cor. 1:3). It goes way beyond words to transform both our outlook and our circumstances.
From early Bible times to the present day, this lasting comfort has taken form in spiritual healing. In fact, Jesus spoke of the essence of his works as "the Comforter." He assured his followers that this "Spirit of truth" was not limited by time, circumstance, or dogma – or dependent on his presence. It was a for-all-time understanding that God is the ever-present, wholly good Principle of being, and that each of us is His tenderly cared-for son or daughter.
At the end of Jesus' healing ministry, he made a promise to his present and future followers: "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever" (John 14:16). In other words, the understanding of God that heals every ill would be accessible to all humanity forever.
This Comforter is at hand today. It's the only real solace for humanity – the truth of God's power and love that doesn't resign itself to adversity but overcomes it. Christian pioneer Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered the divinely scientific laws behind Jesus' healings, described it this way: "Science is an emanation of divine Mind, and is alone able to interpret God aright. It has a spiritual, and not a material origin. It is a divine utterance, – the Comforter which leadeth into all truth" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 127 ).
Anyone can turn in prayer to the Comforter. In the face of loss or illness, we can go beyond soothing or cheering words, and ask God to show us tangible signs of His goodness. This prayerful outreach to our Father-Mother God involves resisting thoughts that trick us into surrendering to trouble. And it replaces cold comfort – settling for whatever fragments of good we can salvage from our challenges – with proof that God is the only reality and power in our lives.
If we experience hardships, dashed hopes, or community violence, we have the built-in courage to do as Jesus did – to prayerfully reject all that is mortal, tragic, and destructive; to celebrate the presence and constancy of God's goodness, and trust Christ's transformation of our lives. Jesus' words "I will not leave you comfortless" (John 14:18) are a call to turn from defeatism and resignation toward joy and hope – to the Comforter's promise of healing.
That's a call that brings real comfort. A call we all can answer.