Comfortable: down pillow, smooth sheet, cotton quilt; food of equal parts anticipation and regret; familiar music, favorite show; a lifestyle greater in wealth than need, or the income capable of funding it.

Comfort: the disposition comfortable items afford. Also, consolation.

Comforted: consoled.

Given that limited grasp of its adjectival, nominative, and passive verbal forms, perhaps my confusion at its appellative form in the Upper Room Discourse is forgivable.

Comforter: the Holy Spirit.

Obviously, the Holy Spirit provides consolation for the distraught just as any other consoler would—presence and companionship, strength and assurance—except to perfection. But the rest of his work—calling, conviction, reminding, rebuking, transforming, strengthening—are surely too important to be regarded only corollaries of comfort as consolation.

I am not alone in my quandary. The Greek word John uses continually to identify the Holy Spirit in the upper room discourse is the one Paul repeats so frequently in the first 8 verses of 2 Corinthians. Yet while the ESV translates it constantly as some form of “comfort” in the latter, it translates it as “Helper” in the former—and I think for good reason.

The comfort Jesus describes in the upper room is clearly more than consolation for his absence. It includes equipping, reminding, strengthening, and encouragement to keep his commandments even after the ascension. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Comforter (Helper, Counselor, Companion), to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, …I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…. But the Comforter (Helper, Counselor, Companion), 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. …he will reprove the world of sin, …he will guide you into all truth.”

In one of those odd moments when a word stops sounding right, I realized the morphemes making up “comfort” actually do convey the weight of the Greek word, and, more importantly, the purpose Jesus makes so clear about the Holy Spirit. He strengthens us with his presence: com-forts us. All, while also comforting us. For good lyrical reasons, we lack words like co-strengthen-er, con-courage-(e)r, or sym-power-er to identify our com-fort-er. But an old covenant passage makes the new covenant point, sans title: “…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

To a week accompanied, consoled, challenged, equipped, changed, and strengthened by the Holy Spirit who also secures us.