"If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort." 2 Corinthians 1:6-7 (NIV)
I paced the office floor, desperate to contain the volatile mixture of anger and confusion that permeated my thoughts. Consumed with embarrassment, crippled by pride and convinced that I'd suffered enough, I blurted out:
“Why can’t I get over this? Why do I keep dealing with the same issue? Why won’t God remove this burden from me?”
My pastor, without any hint of annoyance at my repeated need for counseling, grabbed his Bible and posed a question: “Have you considered that your struggle forces you to draw closer to the Lord … and enables you to help others in similar situations?”
Wait, what? I was there to find relief for my suffering. Helping someone else? Not on my radar.
Later that day, as I replayed the conversation with my pastor, the words “draw closer to the Lord” pierced my heart. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, we learn that God is the Father of all compassion, the ultimate Comforter; He is omnipresent and desires to comfort us in all our struggles. I’d been trying to numb my pain instead of releasing it to the only One who not only walks with me in my struggles but also showers me with grace, love, peace and eternal hope!
As I meditated on these truths, I began to understand what my pastor meant by helping someone else experiencing similar pain and hardship. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can provide comfort for others because we have received comfort from God.
The Apostle Paul was no stranger to affliction and hardship, having endured stonings, whippings and shipwrecks. He spent roughly three years imprisoned in Rome. Yet, there in prison, surrounded by misery, he was able to comfort distressed fellow inmates because he intimately knew the ultimate Comforter, God.
During his imprisonments, he also wrote four letters to newly formed churches, encouraging them to remain faithful under persecution. He actually told the Philippians to look for joy while suffering, to rejoice in the Lord always. To the Colossians, he wrote, “Whatever you do, work … for the Lord …” (Colossians 3:23, NIV), and to those in Ephesus, “mak[e] the most of every opportunity …” (Ephesians 5:16, NIV). “Every opportunity” included trials and tribulations.
In our key verse, Paul writes to the church of Corinth, saying, “If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:6-7).
The Greek word for “comfort” is paraclete, which means “one who comes alongside to help.” Paul's life demonstrates how the Holy Spirit, who lives in the children of God, strengthens and supports us during troubling times, even before we cry out for help. (Romans 8:26) Paul reminds the Corinthians that only the triune God is the source of abiding consolation. Throughout the book of Corinthians, Paul — in light of the comfort he received from God — admonishes the Corinthians and us to remain faithful, share the gospel and continue to trust the Lord in all circumstances.
Despite what Paul knew about suffering, he was able to rejoice and remain hopeful because suffering produced godly patience and endurance. As with Paul, the Lord uses hardship and affliction to sanctify us. Come what may, when we believe God is faithful and true, the Lord lifts us up and sets our feet on solid, sure ground, moving us from a state of faltering self-sufficiency to steadfast security in His all-sufficient grace.
With hope, we can persevere, reminding ourselves that our troubles are temporary, not eternal. We can remain steadfast and confident because our faith and hope stands firm on Christ, the solid rock. The Son of God, who underwent immense suffering to give His life as a ransom for our sins, will one day roll back the effects of the curse and wipe away all our tears. Jesus, our long-awaited, serpent-crushing King, will rescue us and restore all things, for He has already triumphed over sin and death.
Lord, thank You for being the God of all comfort. Please help me to call on Your name and seek You when I’m hurting. Give me strength and encouragement as I share in the struggles of others, pointing them to the hope that is found in You alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
OUR FAVORITE THINGS
Do you ever feel like life is falling apart? No matter how often you cry out to God, your situation just keeps getting worse. You wonder what God could possibly be doing when life isn’t going how you planned. That’s exactly the situation we find in the book of Habakkuk. Join us for our next First 5 study on August 9, Not According to Plan: How We Can Trust God Even When He Seems Unfair or Silent. Order your Study Guide today!
Head over to Laura Bailey’s website and grab your copy of “10 Scriptures to Pray When You Are in the Midst of Deep Suffering.” And connect with Laura on Instagram for more encouragement!
FOR DEEPER STUDY
John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)
Think of a time in your life when you have experienced great suffering. What did the Lord teach you that you could use to help comfort others who are experiencing similar suffering? Share with us in the comments!
© 2021 by Laura Bailey. All rights reserved.
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