Read This Week: 2 Corinthians 1
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we receive from God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV
Christian apologist and thinker, Ravi Zacharias once wrote this on the subject of pain and suffering: “We are short-sighted because all we want is to be comfortable. We cannot understand the great plan of an all-knowing God who brings us near to Him through pain or in disappointment with pleasure. Although we wish to avoid it, the pathway of pain can be the means to recognizing our mortality and the rescuing grace of a God so longing to reach us that He was willing to suffer pain Himself.”
This redemptive view of pain and suffering as it relates to our lives and our relationship with God is exactly what Paul is writing to the people of Corinth. He, and those who joined him in Christian service, have experienced many difficulties. There had been much pain and suffering, but Paul did not view it as misery but as a ministry. He declares that God allows suffering, provides the strength for it in each case, and then uses that strength to minister to others. Paul firmly believed that suffering is an invaluable part of gospel ministry and the service of people.
Paul even begins verse 3 by singing praises. But, he’s not singing about his and the church’s circumstances; he is worshipping the One who is in control of their circumstances. He realizes and points out in this section that Jesus suffered, and those whom he calls to follow Him also suffer. But this suffering is not in vain. Our hardships can lead to the encouragement and blessing of those who are also suffering. God can use the pain we share in Christ to give hope and provide comfort to those who need it most.
The word comfort is used 11 times in this passage and means “to console with strength” or “to come alongside and help.” God’s comfort puts strength in our hearts to not only face our difficulties but to overcome them. So, as God comes beside us and consoles with His power in our challenges, pain, and disappointment, may we, in turn, channel that same comfort to our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
The Lord is sufficient in and of Himself to comfort and lift people, but sometimes He desires to use other believers to provide the encouragement we need. When we are discouraged or overwhelmed with our circumstances, the tendency is to focus on ourselves and our feelings only. However, in Christ, we are built to comfort, not for comfort. We receive it in faith from the Lord and then give it to others.