“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Paul, in words that illustrate his experience, sandwiches affliction and suffering in the much greater, overlapping comfort of God. He had suffered much, mentally and physically, from the start of his life in Christ; God ordained it to bring about His grand purposes in Paul’s life and ministry. The apostle learned how God brought affliction so He could prove and lavish His comfort, and perpetuate a cycle that was to identify the church: passing and sharing the divine comfort of the Savior. (Acts 9:15-16; 2 Corinthians 11:23-33)
As years go by, I meet new friends who share sorrows, and I find that time and again, God weaves a beautiful web of mutual comfort through shared pain. It may be that I have experienced a similar hurt, or know well another who has or is presently. WIth a willingness to bear the yoke alongside a sister or brother in Christ comes a glorious realization that this is what Paul was talking about: God ministers to us in our own pathos not only so we know Him better, but for the sake of others. We know best, and can share best, God’s comfort when we personally know suffering. Jesus bore the ultimate rejection and agony, sorrow and wrath against sin, to the cross to ‘win’ for us this comfort, and daily offers it to us with open arms. When once I have been enveloped in it, I have tasted the inexplicable abiding presence that brings peace beyond understanding, I cannot help but wrap my comfort around others, offering its mysterious and palpable fruit to them. (John 14:27; Philippians 3:10; 4:7)
Sense is made in our suffering when we receive His comfort and allow it to flow. Sometimes the resolution we long for is realized when we pass along what Jesus has given; there is a flowering in the sharing that brings beauty from ashes and pain. ‘For this I have suffered, for this my Lord has come to me, that I can share Him with another.’ All around us are those sad, lonely, sick, barren, hurting, hopeless because of a rebellious child, reeling from a broken marriage, uncertain how financial responsibilities will be met, grieving a loved one’s death. What will I do with the rich and blessed comfort I have received? (Isaiah 61:1-3)
O Lord, Your purpose in every pain is redemptive, and I bless Your merciful name. May I never hoard Your good gift of comfort, but keep stoking its very nature by sharing it with those in need.