On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38, N.K.J.V.)
R.A. Torrey was one of the most famous preachers who ever lived. His resume would impress anyone. He graduated from Yale University and Yale Divinity School. He was a prominent pastor. He worked extensively with the great evangelist D.L. Moody in evangelistic work. He preached around the world. He was the Superintendent of the school that is now known as Moody Bible Institute. He founded Biola University in Los Angeles and served as its dean. He authored dozens of books.
Torrey and his wife had five children, four of them girls, but a tragic accident claimed the life of their twelve-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. The funeral was conducted on a rainy day, and the weather seemed to fit the mood of the family perfectly. As Torrey and his wife, Clara, stood over the gravesite, Clara said, “I’m so glad Elizabeth is not in that box.”
The next morning R.A. got up and went for a walk. As he walked he began to think about how he wouldn’t get to hear Elizabeth laugh again or see her grow into a young woman. Even though he knew her soul was in heaven, the loss of future earthly memories with her was more than he could take. His grief became overwhelming.
Barely able to stand, and desperate for God’s comforting presence, Torrey leaned up against a light pole and began to pray. I’ll let the man himself explain what happened next:
And just then the fountain, the Holy Spirit, whom I had in my heart, broke forth with such power as I think I had never experienced before. And it was the most joyful moment I had ever known in my life! It is an unspeakably glorious thing to have within you a fountain ever springing up, springing up, springing up, ever springing up 365 days in every year, springing up under all circumstances.
Christian, there are two things that I want you to learn from Torrey’s experience. First, you need to understand that being a Christian doesn’t make you immune from the hardships and tragedies of life. If a great Christian like R.A. Torrey could have a young daughter die in an accident, none of us is safe from calamity.
Second, you need to understand that one of the indwelling Holy Spirit’s most important roles in your life is that of Comforter. In John 14:26, the Greek word that is used in reference to the Holy Spirit is parakletos, from which comes the Greek proper noun Paraclete. Because the word parakletos literally means “called to one’s side,” various translations of the Bible translate the word in different ways — “Helper,” “Counselor,” “Advocate.” None of these translations, however, is as heart warming as the classic King James translation’s familiar “Comforter.”
The point, Christian, is that when you need comforting, the indwelling Holy Spirit wells up inside you, comes to your side, and does that comforting. This comforting is something that R.A. Torrey once experienced while leaning against a light pole the day after he had buried his daughter, and it’s something that you can experience as well. Of course, your preference would be never to experience any loss or tragedy. Unfortunately, life makes that an impossibility. So when those difficult times come, you’d be wise to pray to God and ask Him to have the indwelling Holy Spirit minister His sweet comfort to you. And then don’t be surprised when the Holy Spirit does just that.