2 Corinthians 1:3-5
3 Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows.
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It’s a mysterious ebb and flow that permeates God’s earthly Kingdom—suffering and comfort, suffering and comfort. Without comfort suffering would be unbearable, but without suffering comfort would not exist.
We often think of the Holy Spirit as our Comforter, which He is, but Paul reminds us here that it is actually the Father Himself who is the “God of all comfort.” Comfort starts with the Father, flows through Christ, then through His Spirit, and finally through us to our brothers and sisters “who are in any kind of affliction.”
Suffering can be divided into three general categories. The first is obvious—that of physical pain in all its many forms. The second is mental and emotional pain, found in such things as misunderstandings, social rejection, personal failure, and addictive bondages. And finally there is spiritual pain—the loneliness that comes from losing someone we love, or perhaps even the terrifying fear that life might have no meaning at all.
Having been human, Jesus understands our suffering better than the gods of any other religion. His early life wasn’t easy, but His suffering came to a climax on the cross. In those long agonizing hours, Jesus endured excruciating physical torture, along with hunger, thirst, fatigue and cold (remember, Peter had to warm himself by a fire).
He also felt not only the vicious scorn and rejection of His people, but He experienced something beyond our comprehension—the mysterious transfer of all human sin and corruption into His sinless soul. What anguish that must have caused Him!
And then in those final moments, His Spirit cried out with unspeakable terror, when for the first time in all eternity the Trinity itself was torn apart. In the highest possible manifestation of justice, the holy Father turned His back on His sin-laden Son. Christ yielded up His Spirit...and it was finished.
Where does our comfort come from? It comes from the Father who in a very real way bore the hardest pain of all. Because “God so loved the world,” He did what no human father would ever do. He chose to send His beloved only Son to earth, He “was pleased to bruise Him” (Isaiah 53:10), He chose to lay the weight of sin on His shoulders, and He chose in that awful moment to abandon Him.
And for this reason He is truly now the God of all comfort, who is able to comfort us in all our afflictions and rejections and humiliations and loneliness and fear. Just as the deepest possible pain was endured in our place, the deepest possible comfort is available to us now, as we come to realize that the ebb and flow of all our sufferings and comforts are only ripples spreading out from the foot of a cross that stood long ago on a barren hill called Calvary.
- So often our sufferings are intensified by the questions they raise. Why did this happen to me? Why did that person die so young? How could a good God allow that kind of injustice or cruelty?
- The Christian answer is the only one that satisfies. Not only does our God not put more on us than He Himself was willing to bear, not only does He come alongside us in our pain, not only does He bring value out of suffering, but He also calls us to look beyond our present life to the glorious eternity that has now been made available to us because of the choices He made.
- In the trials and sufferings you currently face, learn to draw strength from these words of Paul:
"Therefore we do not give up; even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)