All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NLT)
Paul helped the Corinthian church make sense of why he had to endure suffering by showing them the value of patient sharing in times of crisis and hurt. Further into this passage Paul recalled a time when his suffering was so great he even despaired of life itself.
It’s at such times, when disaster comes, or tragedy strikes, Paul says, the meaning of his suffering was wrapped up in the comfort of others in the church, that they may experience how to endure the suffering this life will bring on us all.
In my early days of following Christ I had a friend who was a mentor to me. Jerry used to tell me: when I hurt you ought to cry. I believe my friend understood Paul’s economy of the fellowship of God’s people.
If you recall the story of Job, you know that he was a wealthy, well-respected and honorable pillar of his community. Then Satan was allowed to test him; the devil was allowed to take everything from Job, except his life.
In the midst of the great suffering that was brought on by the indescribable loss of his family, wealth, health, and even the respect of his wife, Job had three “friends” come to his side to help him figure it out. But these friends did not have a clue what Job was going through. And how could they? Not many have suffered what Job suffered.
All that Job’s friends could do was sit by the fire and speculate what evil thing Job must have done to tick God off that much; it had to be that Job had some secret hidden sins to bring on the kind of punishment from God which takes away everything.
Job said of the three “friends” who came to sit with him:
What miserable comforters you are! Job 16:2 NLT
You tell ‘em, Job!
Another dear friend and member of the church I serve recently suffered through a minor stroke. Years ago his wife of 50 years also experienced a debilitating stroke; she is dependent on him for daily care.
As we visited in the hospital a week ago he told me: I have a new appreciation for what she went through; I’m going to be able to understand how I can help her more in the future.
I believe my friend understands exactly what Paul had in mind about the value of his suffering for the Corinthian believers. And when we place that understanding in our everyday thinking and living, we can all begin to connect with the fact that we’re not alone in this universe. God has made us for each other, and for himself.
Jesus endured the greatest suffering anyone has ever known, and it’s therefore not an empty sound when he says: I will not leave you comfortless… John 14:18 KJV
And he really doesn’t you know; when I hurt, God has placed people alongside me to cry. I am not alone.
And what about when you hurt?