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.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
Read: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Consider: Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth starts strangely; after an initial introduction Paul goes on to talk about ‘troubles’, ‘distress’ and ‘comfort’. However, as a follow-on to his first letter it makes sense. In 1 Corinthians Paul had to point out some painful truths about the Corinthians’ toleration of sin amongst members of the church. Knowing this caused them pain, he chose to write a second letter to offer them comfort and to repair their relationship. Paul openly tells the Corinthians that his first letter was not written lightly, as he says: For I wrote to you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you (2 Corinthians 2:4). It was Paul’s love for them and his concern for their spiritual welfare that constrained him to write as he did. There is a lesson here for us all in being able to speak the truth in love to those who are going astray, or to those who are wilfully sinning.
Paul’s logic is impeccable in the opening section of his second letter. In his own troubles and distress he received comfort from God. This allows him to comfort the Corinthians and this in turn enables the Corinthians to comfort others. Can you see that God does not necessarily save us from our troubles, but he does comfort us while we are troubled and distressed. However, this is not an end in itself. Paul points out that having been in distress and having received God’s comfort, this allows believers to comfort others going through difficulties. There are two aspects to this comfort. Firstly, God is the source of all comfort and the believer can reassure those in difficulty that this is so. Secondly, having gone through similar difficulties themselves, the believer can empathise with and offer comfort to those who are in difficulty.
This is how Eugene Peterson paraphrases this idea in The Message: All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
When we are going through difficult times we can be so focused on our own difficulties that we forget that it might be a preparation for meeting someone else who is facing a similar situation. When in difficulty, ask God for his comfort, but also ask him to lead you to those who need comforting.
Pray: Father, thank you for the comfort you give us when we face difficulties. Use us in being able to comfort others who are going through difficult times. Amen