The other day I was watching one of my favorite TV shows, chuckling at the events that were happening between two characters. One of the characters was in tears because they were going through a breakup. The other character saw their friend's grief and was extremely uncomfortable. Not being the reassuring type, he simply patted her head and said, "There, there." The scene made me laugh, but it also made me think about how common this situation can be. It can be hard to know how to comfort someone, and there have been times in my own life where I've sat with a friend who was grieving and didn't know what to do. Knowing what to say when someone is in pain or being the one who is in pain are both difficult situations. However, we don't have to feel hopeless or helpless in either one of those situations. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul gives us two promises that encourage us in moments of pain.
- God will comfort you in your pain.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:3 that God is the God of all comfort. Let's pause there for the moment. God is not the God of some comfort, but the God of all comfort. He is not like a friend who gives half-hearted comfort, but whole-hearted comfort. He is not a pat on the head and a "there, there'' kind of God. He can comfort fully and deeply. Why? Because He's God. He is a God whose love and grace are infinite. He is a God without limitations or weakness so He knows how to provide comfort in a way that us humans can reflect but not replicate. God's comfort is all-consuming and never-ending.
But God is also the God of all comfort because He knows what it's like to suffer. Sometimes it can feel hard to accept the comfort of a friend because we feel like they don't understand. They haven't walked through what we are specifically going through, so while we appreciate their comfort, their comfort only does so much. But when you receive comfort from someone who knows exactly what you are going through, their comfort sinks deep.
Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus is able to sympathize with our sufferings because He has experienced suffering. Jesus faced suffering in more ways than one. He knew what it was like to be rejected, abandoned, and scorned. He knew what it was like to grieve the loss of a friend, to feel anxious, and to undergo the highest level of physical pain. Christ's comfort runs deep because His suffering runs deep. He knows our pain because He has felt our pain. Jesus not only knows our pain but enters into our pain, providing us with His perfect comfort. Again, Paul emphasizes in 2 Corinthians 1:4 how God comforts us in all of our afflictions. There is not one affliction that God's comfort fails to enter into. Because Jesus suffered in all ways, He comforts us in all of our sufferings.
In times of pain, we don't ever have to feel like God doesn't care or understand. Whenever we're afflicted, God stands ready to pour out His comfort over us in ways that only He can. No matter what you are facing or will face, God will comfort you in your pain.
- God comforts you so you can comfort others.
In the television episode, the character failed to comfort his friend effectively because his friend failed to comfort him effectively earlier that day. He repeated the same actions of his friend because he wasn't shown what comfort looks like. But this isn't the case for us as believers. Paul continues in 2 Corinthians 1:4 by saying that God comforts us in all our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction. In His sweet and mysterious sovereignty, God uses the comfort He gives us in our times of suffering to help comfort others in their times of suffering.
Again, Paul uses exhaustive language by saying that we can comfort those in any kind of affliction. This may seem surprising to us, but we must remember the effectiveness of God's comfort. Paul ends verse 4 by saying that we are able to comfort those in any kind of affliction through the comfort we have received from God. And while we cannot supply this comfort in the exact way that God does, we can reflect His comfort through words of encouragement, a comforting embrace, and a listening ear. We can also use what God has taught us in our pain to comfort others. The nearness of God in our pain helps us to encourage others that God is near. The peace that God has supplied us in our pain helps us to remind others that God is a God of peace. The strength of God we have felt in our pain helps us encourage others that God will give them His strength. Even if we haven't walked through exactly what another person has walked through, we can still reflect the comfort of God to them. Because God has walked with us through our pain, we can walk with others through their pain.
While affliction is painful, God is with you in your pain, and He is working through your pain. He will use the suffering you have experienced or currently experiencing to comfort others who are suffering. The abundance of His comfort overflows from us to others, bringing peace even in the deepest moments of pain. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.