2 Corinthians 1:3-7. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 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. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 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.
I don’t have to convince anyone today that suffering is a huge part of living. The question isn’t WILL we suffer, but HOW WILL we suffer. All of us are suffering today in either big or small ways (or both). But let me ask you, what are you doing with your suffering? Are you suffering alone? And what are you doing to find comfort in your sorrow?
2 Corinthians is a deeply personal letter from Paul. He has been through numerous physical and emotional trials. This is a letter written primarily from sorrow. It is one of the gutsiest letters in the New Testament, and an intimate look into what it means to suffer while being in Christ.
Paul is going to teach us to see our personal suffering through the lens of Christ’s suffering. The gospel is the good news of the suffering of Christ. He suffered. He died. He was buried. Then, and only then, was he raised. We are left to carry that same suffering of his death and the same comfort of his resurrection with us in this life. If you signed up for Christianity but wanted a religion that will remove your suffering immediately, you signed up for the wrong faith.
To be in Christ is a call to share his suffering.
But union with Christ is also a call to comfort. The word that Paul keeps using over and over is the Greek word paraklesis. This word means to encourage, to come alongside, or simply to be a friend. In John’s gospel, Jesus called the Holy Spirit our paraklete. Jesus was the first paraklete to the disciples. The Holy Spirit came as their new paraklete. And now we who are in Christ parakaleo each other. We comfort one another. We listen. We speak words of encouragement. We bear burdens. We help bring change to a situation. We offer the hope of Christ. We let them know that we believe in them because we believe in the Christ that lives in them. In other words, we’re a friend like Jesus.
The temptation in all of our suffering is to make it about ourselves. To have blinders on that only allow us to see our own pain. Our enemy wants us to believe that we are all alone on an island of personal sadness. No one understands what I’m going through, we think. Or we see others suffering and wrongly believe that we have nothing to offer them because we haven’t walked in their exact same pair of shoes. But again, this is the lie of our enemy, meant to keep us isolated.
But Paul will say that the Corinthians share in his suffering and they share in his comfort. But how could they? They didn’t experience what he experienced. They weren’t beaten, imprisoned, or shipwrecked with him. But (this is important) we don’t have to have had the same exact experiences to share with others in suffering. And we don’t have to have had the same exact experiences to share with others in comfort.
Because union with Christ teaches us that our personal suffering is never simply personal. It is always shared with Christ – For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too – and shared with others – If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort. For those that are in Christ, all suffering is shared suffering. Shared with Jesus, and shared with one another. And shared suffering is bearable suffering.
“To live is Christ” means we are never alone in our suffering, and we are never meant to leave others alone in theirs. May the God of all comfort grant us the comfort of Christ’s love and life in our suffering. May we reject selfish isolation, and embrace the ministry of shared suffering and shared comfort today and every day until Jesus returns for his bride.
Do you tend to suffer alone? Do you see your sufferings as part of Christ’s suffering?
You in Christ
How can union with Christ give us the hope of comfort in our suffering?
Christ in you
Have you experienced the sufferings of Christ? Have you experienced the comfort of Christ? Have you allowed the Spirit to use you to comfort others?
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