2 Corinthians 1:3-7
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 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. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 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. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
There are many preachers and teachers out there who would try to argue that Christians, as children of God the king, are destined for lives of peace and ease. These prosperity preachers say that Christians will not suffer, and those who do suffer are simply lacking in the faith to claim victory. Such teaching is false, dangerous, disheartening, and in direct contrast to the clear writing of Scripture in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.
As Paul opens his letter to the church at Corinth, we see a word repeated time and time again. The word “comfort” finds its way into the passage some ten times. The point that Paul is making is simple. God comforts us in our afflictions. Because we are comforted by God in our afflictions, we can then use what we have learned to comfort others who are suffering through similar afflictions. The teaching is not that Christians should expect not to suffer. Rather, the teaching is that Christians who suffer and who experience God’s comfort in their suffering will be equipped to serve others who suffer as well.
A year or so ago, I had the opportunity to experience some of this passage at work in my life. I was born legally blind. I have never had normal vision. God has, however, blessed me with the kinds of technology that I need to make it through life and to serve him as a minister of the gospel. I am very much grateful to God for what he allows me to do in his service. And, on occasion, God will allow me to impact the lives of others who are learning to deal with their own limitations.
As I said, a year or so ago, I encountered a lady who had lost her sight in her struggle with cancer. She found herself discouraged, feeling alone and helpless. While I do not consider myself special in any way, God used me and my experience to offer hope to this lady. In a very real sense, I was allowed to share in the joy of comforting her with the comfort with which I was comforted by God.
What about you? Where have you suffered? Who comforted you? Where have you gone through tough times? Have you ever stopped to think that God may want to equip you to comfort someone else? Perhaps it would do you well to think through the story of how God has comforted you so that you will be ready to share with others more easily.
Are you presently going through a hard time? How is God presently comforting you? Perhaps it would be good for you, instead of praying only that God would get you out of your hardship, to pray that he would comfort you with a comfort you will be able to share with someone else.
It is not God’s plan that his children will never go through hardships. Such a view is childish for how narrow it is. God has never, neither in Scripture nor through church history, made it his top priority to keep his children from ever having to go through hardships. Instead, God has always used our hardships to display his glory and love to the entire world. God is good. It honors him when his children show that he is more than enough for us, regardless of our circumstances.