2 Corinthians 1:5-7
The Comforted Comfort
You’ll recall from last time that Paul blesses God because he is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. When God comforts us, he reminds us of his strong presence, perfect providence, holy character, and infallible Word. But he also uses us thus comforted to help give comfort to others (v. 4). And that’s what we’ll look at in brief today. Notice the emphasis from Paul that comfort is other-oriented:
- 4: God comforts us, “so that we may be able to comfort those” in affliction.
- 5: “through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
- 6a: Our affliction “is for your comfort.”
- 6b: “if we are comforted, it is for your comfort.”
- 7: As the Corinthians share in Paul’s sufferings, they will share in comfort as well.
So, the chain of events is neatly laid out: (1) We suffer, (2) God through Christ comforts us, then (3) we comfort others.
The sufferings of Christ that Paul refers to (v. 5) are those physical (Acts 14:19) and spiritual afflictions (Rom. 8:17) that arise as a result of being in union with Christ. That is to say, Paul does not have in mind some general sufferings only, nor the sufferings that an unbeliever experiences. He has narrowed his focus here on what a believer experiences as a result of bearing the name of Christ. Jesus, you remember, spoke to his disciples of the baptism of suffering with which they’d be baptized (Matt. 20:23). Peter probably had that episode in mind when he reminds us of the fiery trials that we pass through when we share Christ’s sufferings (1 Pet. 4:12-14).
The comfort, then, is attached to our union with Christ. As we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, we will share abundantly in the comfort from God in Christ. So, when you realize how much you suffer, the good news is that you receive even more so in comfort! No suffering for Christ will be without the comfort of Christ. That’s a promise from the God of all comfort.
Christ suffered, and now he comforts his sheep. So, what do we do when we are comforted? Comfort others. It’s other-oriented. God does not intend for his people to merely be comforted, but to put that comfort to good use: the comfort of others. That’s why Paul could say over again, “it’s for your comfort” (vv. 6-7). Paul has abounded in suffering. For what purpose? For one, it’s to identify with Christ. But for another, it’s to be able to comfort the Corinthians. They’ve been afflicted. They’ve suffered. They need comfort. Where’s that comfort coming from? From God in Christ through Paul. You see, God uses his weak, suffering children to help his weak, suffering children.
You might be suffering right now. Rest assured, God has your comfort in mind, and he has mobilized his people to come alongside you, to remind you of his strong presence, perfect providence, holy character, and infallible Word. Or, you might not be suffering right now. Perhaps you’ve passed through a fiery trial by God’s comforting grace. Your work is not done. Now you have the privileged duty to be the one to comfort that suffering sister or brother. You get to draw from God’s comfort, that never-ending supply of mercy and grace for his children. Isn’t it amazing to see how God has orchestrated our sufferings and subsequent comfort for the good of his church?
One more thing. You might be tempted to object and say that no one can truly comfort you because they’ve not gone through the suffering and affliction that have shattered your life. They don’t know the pain you experienced, so how can they comfort you? Don’t give into that temptation. Don’t fall into that trap of faulty thinking. Don’t deprive yourself of true hope and help. Admittedly, it’s true that there are particulars in your story that are unique to you, but are the particulars the essence of your affliction? No. Trust God when he tells you that you need the body of Christ, and that the body of Christ needs you. Trust God that in his sovereign plan, you’ve suffered in one way, and others have suffered in other ways. But the fact of the matter is that we’ve all suffered. We’ve all been afflicted. And we’ve all been comforted. We know what it’s like to know God’s grace in Christ. Can you trust the Father of mercies and God of all comfort when he tells you that he has comforted his people in their afflictions to comfort you in yours?