2 Corinthians 1:6-7. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
In Paul’s mind there was no such thing as an isolated Christian. In fact, for the truths of the gospel to take shape in our lives, we must do life together, not alone. The sorrows and comforts of life are meant to be shared. How does this happen? How do we share in suffering and the comfort of God?
First when we suffer in affliction it is for the sake of others. And when we are comforted, we are comforted for the sake of others. What does this mean? It means that when we experience affliction and then comfort from God, it allows us to empathize with others and serve others. We can pass on the comfort of God to others. Then when we see them endure through trials, we know that they too have received the same comfort of God.
Also, all Christians, when we suffer, share the suffering of Christ. And all Christians, when we are comforted by God, share the comfort of Christ. Paul and the Corinthians did not share the same exact suffering. Paul wasn’t even literally with them. Yet he spoke about them sharing in his suffering. They weren’t shipwrecked with him, or locked in jail with him. So how did they share his suffering? Because whenever a Christian suffers it is the suffering of Christ. Why? Because we are united to Christ. Our suffering is his suffering, and his suffering is our suffering. Because all Christians are united to Christ in this way, we all share the same suffering.
So often when we go through a trial we are blinded by the Enemy and deceived into thinking that we are alone on an island. But we never are. Our affliction is the shared affliction of Christ. Our comfort is the shared comfort of Christ. And now, through our union with the Church, that affliction and comfort is shared with the Body of Christ. No matter how much we might feel like we are alone, we are never alone. What happens to one Christian happens to the Body. What happens to any Christian happens to Christ.
“To live is Christ” unites all of our suffering and all of our comfort to Christ and to the Body of Christ. We never have to suffer alone. Christ is always with us. And the Body is meant to be there for each other as well. This simple yet amazing truth is what gives us a hope that is unshaken.
Do you tend to suffer alone? Do you see your sufferings as part of Christ’s suffering? Shared suffering is endurable suffering. Do you believe this? Do you practice this with others? How can union with Christ give us the hope of comfort in our suffering?