II Corinthians 1:3-10
“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. 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. 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.”
God is the God of all comfort just as he is the Father of mercies manifest in Christ which was discussed in the last exposition. Just as the death of Christ on the cross was the apex of God’s mercy and the perfect demonstration of a mercy that agreed with God’s character so the resurrected Christ is the perfect manifestation of God’s eternal comfort amidst and following suffering.
The distinction between this comfort and the comfort of a nice mattress or easy-chair is that this comfort comes in the midst of suffering and brings relief (vs 4) which is not an immediate escape from suffering (vs 5) but a sure hope that as Christ endured suffering “for the joy that was set before him” (Heb 12:2) so also we may be comforted with the hope set before us (vs 9).
The comfort that we are comforted by amidst our affliction is not an escape from that affliction, but a comfort to endure it (vs 6). Sharing in and not escaping from the same sufferings that Christ suffered (scorn, rejection, torture, and even death) we can have confidence that we will also share in Christ’s comfort, which is our resurrection from the dead and eternal bliss in the presence of His glory. Christ is the source of our comfort because he is proof that God raises the dead (vs 9). Christ is the first-fruits of those that sleep and Paul points out that if Christ is only dead and not risen that we are of all men most to be pitied (1 Cor 15:19, 20).
Those of us that are in Christ should not expect to share in this comfort without also sharing in his affliction (vs 5). Also, just as the comfort with which we are comforted is not for us to hoard so also our suffering is not for ourselves (vs 4, 6). Our affliction comforts others as they behold and hear of our comfort, which is ultimately our confidence that God raises the dead and will deliver us. This comfort is experienced as we patiently endure suffering. Affliction and comfort go hand in hand. Without the affliction Christ endured there would be no comfort, without the affliction of the Apostles there would have been no comfort conveyed to others throughout the world. The invitation to comfort is an invitation to suffering. It is only by picking up our cross that we may experience resurrection, it is only by losing our life that it may be save it. We do not seek out suffering as the legalistic monastics of old did, for this would defeat the purpose. Just as Christ took on flesh and suffered and was afflicted so that we may be comforted, we comfort others in the same fashion. Our lives as comforted ones should be marked by sharing in the afflictions of Christ so that others may be comforted in their affliction. This is the rondoesque pattern of Christ’s church, suffering but being comforted in order that we may comfort others who are suffering.
Let us not be afraid to experience the comfort of Christ knowing that it is born of affliction. We dare not think that God has called us to stay held up in a fortress of our own fabrication that we think to be the comfort of God, but let us go outside the gates in order that others may be comforted. May we set our hope and confidence in the God of all comfort, that is that God raises us from the dead (vs 9). Because Christ who was so greatly afflicted is being comforted, so we may hope in the same! Praise be to God for His Son who was the original one to be afflicted in order the we may be comforted and comforted so that we may have a sure comfort that touches us even now in the midst of our affliction.