Paul writes a tribute to a wonderful God as he begins another correspondence to his friends living in Corinth. “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.” Our God really is the God of all comfort and I am so very thankful that He is. Praise to Him who gives generously to us in our need, and fills us up so that we can give likewise. Paul then writes: “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” Do not read this last bit too hastily. What does it mean to “share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings”? I want the abundant comfort part, but do I have to go through the abundant suffering to get it? That is not an easy teaching.
It is so good to know that when we suffer we do not experience it alone. God is there with us and He knows how to provide comfort for our souls. At age forty-eight God saw fit for me to experience my first broken bones and after surgery, my first time to have stitches. Up until then, I thought I had compassion for people who suffered in these ways, but when I actually went through the pain, things changed. I changed. I see more depth in Scripture about pain and comfort and our need to draw near to God in times of suffering. My prayers for others who go through long painful healing now have more heart. And, through the experience, my awareness of what Jesus suffered for me has become more vivid. Suffering is just pain unless we use that time of suffering to draw ourselves near to God who is near us all the time. When we experience how God has comforted us through the suffering, we can offer meaningful comfort to others. This is yet another way of blessing.