While reading 2 Corinthians this morning I don’t I would be going out on a limb if I said that verses 3-7 of chapter one frame the Bible’s greatest text on comfort (although Isaiah 40-66 is not silent about “comfort”).
“Comfort” (in both noun and verb forms) shows up 10 times. The NIV Application Commentary says that makes up one-third of the word’s occurrence in all of the New Testament. Paul has a lot to say about suffering, and with that, comfort. This chapter is his most concentrated discussion about the two (suffering and comfort) that are inseparable according to Paul’s experience.
Paul had critics, and some commentators point out that it is quite possible that those critics saw Paul’s sufferings as proof that he was not an Apostle. If he was the “real deal” then he wouldn’t be experiencing so much trouble, sufferings, problems, etc..
For many, like me, our biggest critic might be ourselves. This is where that “health and wealth” false-gospel-thinking enters in. “If everything is falling apart in my life, then there must be something wrong with my faith.” Or, “with all of this suffering and pain and trials, maybe God is not pleased with me; he has certainly stopped hearing my prayers for deliverance.”
Let’s face it, we think bad things shouldn’t happen to God’s people.
Paul, in a way, celebrates in his sufferings because he recognizes God as, “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (1:3). Where there is suffering, there is comfort, because where there is suffering, we will (deeply) experience God, the God of comfort.
One verse in particular jumps out at me today. I’ve read it many times, but, as is the case with a lot of passages about suffering, it’s like I’ve never read it before (walking with God through deep trials will do that).
Chapter 1, verse 5 (in a few translations)…
ESV| For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
NASB95| For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
HCSB| For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows.
NIV84| For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
LEB| For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, thus through Christ our comfort overflows also.
The Message| We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.
NLT| For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.
Sufferings may flow, but comfort overflows. Plenty of hard times, but at the same time a full measure of healing comfort. The more we suffer, the more God showers us with comfort–through Christ! Abundant sufferings are met with abundant comfort.
That’s the God of comfort who meets us in suffering, pain, trials, problems, and grief.
Whenever Christ’s sufferings were multiplied in Paul’s life, God’s comfort was also multiplied through the ministry of Christ. The greater the suffering, the greater the comfort and the greater the ability to share with others (a major point of the passage: he comforts the suffering so that we can comfort others).
God, thank you that you are a Father of mercies, a God of comfort! You meet us in the darkest places. You don’t come to shame or ridicule, but with a full understanding of our pain, our suffering, and our grief. Thank you that you meet us in the hardest places of live with overflowing mercy, loving comfort, and deep compassion to walk with, be near, and lift up your redeemed.