“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 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. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too… Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” — 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, 7-10
Suffering and pain are all too familiar to many of us. Experiencing affliction is part-and-parcel of what it means to live in a fallen world. It is incredible to think that much of what we read by Paul in our New Testament was written under very challenging circumstances. The book of Philippians was written from prison, as was Colossians. This passage as well from 2 Corinthians indicates that Paul had again faced significant hardships. He recalls in verse 8 “the affliction [he] experienced in Asia,” where he was “so utterly burdened beyond [his] strength that [he] despaired of life itself.”
It is noteworthy that Paul does not minimize, ignore or diminish what he experienced. It was hard. It was painful. He felt that he had “received the sentence of death.” In fact, he plainly tells the Corinthians in verse 8 “I do not want you to be unaware of the affliction we experienced in Asia.” This is informative in that, like Paul, we too will experience affliction, which may be so severe at times that we too despair of life itself. The good news though is that, for the Christian, we are not without hope or comfort in the face of life’s challenges and hardships.
Paul reminds us, twice in verses 5 and 7, that just as we share in suffering, we also share in comfort. Paul’s point here is literally that comfort abounds to us even as we face affliction. How do we share in and experience this overflow of abounding comfort? Through Christ! It is only in Christ that our suffering is redeemed and given purpose and meaning.
Paul’s insight in verse 9 must not be passed over too quickly. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, recognizes that one of God’s purposes in suffering is to make him rely on God. In your current affliction you can experience a nearness and intimacy with God, as you learn to rely on Him more and more, and that is an opportunity not to be missed.
Not only do we have God’s own dear presence to cheer and to guide, but we also have hope for deliverance. Paul declares boldly in verse 10 that “on Him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again!” What bold faith!
God’s continued deliverance in the present is a blessing as it enables ministry and mission to continue (Philippians 1:22) and so we should pray for that. However, if no deliverance comes right now then we must remember that Jesus has in fact decisively delivered us from the grip of our most evil enemies of sin, death and Satan when He died for us on the cross. That reminder is comforting because if Christ has saved us, how much more can we set our hopes on him that He will ultimately deliver us on that last day and bring us safely to our glorious home.
In the meantime, “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort... 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.”
Father, please let this light and momentary affliction serve as a reminder of our need for and dependence on You. Help us remember that You are the God who raises the dead! The God with whom all things are possible. Father, help us lean on You and take heart as we experience Your comfort and hope. Help us be comforters to those experiencing affliction, and help us minister hope to those who need it. Thank You for being with us. Thank You for never leaving us. Thank You for the reminder of Resurrection Sunday, that our Lord Jesus is alive!
Ministry Fellow, Christian Union Gloria
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