God’s promise to his children is not that they will be comfortable, but that he will comfort them. And God comforts us to comfort others!
Job, chapters 41-42; 2 Corinthians, chapters 1-2
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NLT):
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.
God, Our Merciful Father
Paul begins this passage by referring to God as our merciful Father. There is an old saying: grace is getting what we don’t deserve, and mercy is not getting what we do deserve. What do we “deserve”? “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Mercy means that God doesn’t give us the death penalty our sins deserve, and grace means that he offers us “the free gift of…eternal life.” God extends his mercy and grace to us “through Christ Jesus.” It is a blanket offer of forgiveness and life, but we have to accept it.
God’s mercy is not limited to forgiveness, however. Paul tells us that God comforts us in all our troubles. It’s important to remember that our troubles are not necessarily “punishment” for sinful choices and decisions. Many times, we suffer because we live in a fallen, broken world. Sometimes that suffering is the result of sinful choices others have made. We don’t believe that God causes our suffering; he allows it as the natural consequence of living in a world polluted by sin.
God Comforts Us
I fear that many people within the Church misunderstand what God’s Kingdom is all about. God’s Kingdom is not about living comfortable lives in this world. Rather, God’s purpose is to prepare us for eternity in his Kingdom. Jesus himself told his disciples, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The promise is not that we will be comfortable, but that God will comfort us.
God Comforts Us to Comfort Others
Verse 4 makes God’s purpose clear: He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. This should not surprise us. If we understand that all of the Law and the Prophets are summed up in “love God and love your neighbor” (Matthew 22:40), we should recognize that comforting others is a key component of our relationship with God. If we truly love each other, we rejoice together and suffer together (1 Corinthians 12:26). That’s what it means to be part of the body of Christ!
But God’s call to comfort others is not limited to those within the Church. The Good News of the Kingdom is for everyone! And we demonstrate that it really is Good News by extending God’s love and God’s comfort to those whom God puts in our path. “For I was hungry, and you fed me…” (Matthew 25:35-40).
Application: God Comforts Us to Comfort Others
Paul brings this home in the last part of our passage, as he tells the Corinthians that his troubles are for their comfort and salvation (verse 6). He has suffered and continues to suffer. Later in 2 Corinthians, he will list many of the ways he has suffered (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). But in verses 5-6 of our reading for today, he shows us the key: we do not allow our suffering to turn our attention inward, onto ourselves. 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.
I believe God is reminding us today to keep our eyes on Him, and on those he calls us to serve. When we suffer, we should find someone else to comfort. If we’re discouraged, we should look to encourage someone else. And in the midst of it all, we should fix our eyes on Jesus – and call others to do the same!
Father, thank you for the comfort that you give us in the midst of our trials and struggles. Help us to magnify you by sharing that comfort with others – not so that they will praise us, but so they will praise you. Thank you for reminding us that you comfort us so we can comfort others. You teach us so we can teach others. You pour your love into us so that we may be conduits of your love for others. Show us today how we can comfort, teach, and love others in your name. Amen.