2 Corinthians 1:3-7 — 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 ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
Jesus warned us that in this world we’d have troubles. He was not exaggerating. Troubles abound and more await us over the horizon. Difficulties and suffering have been a part of the human equation since the Fall. But the reality that suffering is part of life does not necessarily make that suffering easier to bear.
The hope that Paul gives us in these verses is not that our lives will be free of suffering and trouble. The hope that we are given is that in the midst of our trouble God will provide comfort. Surely we would rather have our problems taken from us. Deliverance from trouble seems a much better alternative than enduring our suffering – even with the promise of God’s comfort.
Paul points to three very important truths. The first truth is that Jesus Himself suffered. He did not stand far off from us and sympathize with us in our troubles; He entered into them. His suffering went well beyond the beatings and crucifixion He received. As Lord of the Universe He should have been welcomed and worshiped; instead He was despised and rejected. He was considered by His own family to be nuts. He was denied three times by one who was in His inner circle. He was betrayed by one of the twelve. And what is worse than all, He took our sins upon Himself experiencing a break in the perfect union He had had with His Father for all eternity. Jesus suffered. He had trouble upon trouble. Yet we read, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Jesus found comfort and joy in the midst of the worst suffering imaginable because He knew that sorrow would last for the night but joy would come in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)
The second truth is that our suffering brings with it God’s comfort. I do not want to belittle anyone’s suffering. Pain is real. Hurt can be deep. But God has promised to His children comfort in their suffering. He may not remove our pain and trouble, but He has promised to be with us in the middle of it (Isaiah 41:10), to give us grace that is more than sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), and to bring us through to the other side (Matthew 28:20).
Again, I do not want to make light of your suffering, but I do want to remind you (and myself) that in the midst of that suffering God has something for us – His abiding presence and comfort. My fellow believer, He is with you always, but His grace and comfort multiply to you in your suffering.
The final truth from this passage is that those who are comforted are better able to comfort others. The comfort that God provides is not merely to get us through, but to enable us to come alongside others who are hurting, to strengthen them, and to help carry their burdens.
I have become more compassionate and empathetic to those whose watch their loved ones waste away due to cancer because I watched my own father go from being as strong as a bear to being as weak as dish water. Without that pain-filled experience, without knowing the comfort of God and God’s people, I would not be as compassionate and understanding in those times when I need to come alongside those who are suffering in a similar way. I knew the pain so now I can know better how to touch them in their pain.
Suffering is bad, but it is made bearable because of the comfort of God. “…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)