“Blessed be God even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ,the father of mercies and the God of all comfort “( 2 Cor. 1:3 ).
God is described as the compassionate father of all mercies for indeed He is the ultimate source of all true comfort and He is always ready to console His children in times of need. It is from God Himself that all mercies and comforts flow. “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of sea” (Fredrick W. Faber).
The word “comfort” generally means consolation in times of sorrow, but biblically it has a broader meaning. It refers to the encouragement and exhortation given by one who comes alongside in a time of need. The Greek word for comfort is related to the familiar word “paraclete,” meaning “one who comes along side to help,” another name for the Holy Spirit (John. 14:26; Phil 2:1).
In the book of Second Corinthians, we find the Apostle Paul extolling the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort in the midst of his trials and troubles. In God, Paul found strength to sustain himself. In fact, it was precisely because of those difficult experiences in which he was forced to rely solely on God that Paul became uniquely equipped to minister to “those in any trouble” and to bring to them the comfort that he himself had received from God.
Trials and difficulties are part of the natural order of this present world. “Man is born for trouble” (Job 5:7). Jesus Christ said, “In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In another instance, Jesus promises, “Come to me and I will provide you rest” (Matt 11:28, 29). This is an open invitation to us all. Remember that Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light. God never intended a man to carry his burden alone.
An old story tells of an angel who met a man carrying a heavy sack and enquired what was in it. “My worries,” said the man.
“Let me see them,” said the angel.
When the sack was opened, it was empty.
The man was astonished and said he had always carried two great burdens in the sack. One was worries of yesterday which he now saw was past, the other burden was the worries of tomorrow which had not yet arrived.
The angel told him he needed no sack and the man gladly threw it away.
Purpose of suffering
Personal suffering, although at times difficult to bear, nevertheless has its purpose. First, after experiencing God’s comfort, Christians are able to minister to those who are in affliction. Second, trials and tribulations keep the Christians dependent upon God. Our extremity is God’s opportunity to help us. Third, past experiences in seeing the hand of God sustaining us even in our darkest moments are a great encouragement to our growth in faith and hope.
We are comforted not to be comfortable but to be comforters.
The suffering for Christ’s sake
This aspect of suffering does not refer to the hardships common to all humanity. Rather it refers to the distress that results from serving Christ in a hostile environment or even of being a true Christian. Not all sufferings are the result of personal sin. In summary, suffering of Christ is the suffering because of association with the Lord Jesus Christ. There will be rich compensation for such suffering.
The ministry of comfort in suffering
Every trial endured serves the individual to help in comforting others who may be going through similar hardships. Being comforted by God’s love, fellowshipping with the Spirit, and having tenderness and compassion are extremely important in the Christian life.
Once, a missionary translator laboring amongst a tribe in the mountains of Mexico, found it hard to get the right word for “comfort.” One day his helper asked for a week’s leave, and explained that his uncle had died. He wanted some days off to visit his bereaved aunt “to help her heart around the corner.” That was just the expression this missionary needed.
The practical lesson for us is when you are comforted, you should seek to pass on this comfort to others. We should not avoid the house of mourning, but rather fly to the side of anyone who is in need of encouragement. We are comforted not to be comfortable but to be comforters.
A little girl came from a neighbor’s house where her little friend had died.
“Why did you go?” questioned her father.
“To comfort her mother,” replied the child.
“What could you do to comfort her?” the father continued.
“I climbed into her lap and cried with her,” answered the child.
We all need empathy, the capacity for sharing vicariously the feelings and emotions of others joy and sorrow.
Eliphaz in his speech said to Job, “Your words have supported those who stumbled” (Job 4:4). How appropriate was Eliphaz’ comment! How comforting it is to speak the appropriate word at the right time in order to help others in their distress.
Dr. H.A. Ironside once sent a brief note to a family passing through a very difficult time. In his note, Ironside quoted Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.” Those few words of Scripture had an immediate effect on the family and the bands of sorrow were snapped. Scripture is very useful for comforting believers who are passing through a difficult period in their lives.
Just as with Scripture, anyone passing through times of trial should seek the Lord in prayer and faith. And as God answers in response to those supplications the individual may well sing God’s praises (James 5:13).
At one time the writer of this article was once afflicted by a “thorn in the flesh.” He reached a point of near heartbreak. But then the Spirit of God showed him, “This is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you…” Facing the reality and accepting the trial proved to be the first step in effectively coping with the problem. No longer was his face was downcast, but rather all discouragement had evaporated. He has since been continually rejoicing always in the Lord.
Suffering Precedes Glory (2 Cor 4:17)
The Apostle Paul’s own testimony indicates that he considered that his suffering would be compensated by eternal glory. Paul endured terrific affliction but he always regarded his earthly trials as “momentary and light.” From the human perspective those afflictions were, in fact, bitter and cruel. The resolution of this paradox lies in the comparison which Paul makes. Afflictions viewed by themselves might be heavy but when compared with the eternal weight of glory that lies ahead, they are exceedingly light. Not only so, but any affliction is but for a moment, whereas the resulting glory is eternal.
‘All that pleases is but for a moment’
‘All that troubles is but for a moment’
‘That only is important which is eternal’
The story is told of a great king who once came to Solomon and asked him for a proverb. He said, “The proverb must be one that shall be as much use to me in times of trouble as in times of prosperity.”
According to the story, Solomon gave him his proverb. The king subsequently had it engraved on a ring which he wore continually. The proverb was: “Even this shall pass away.”
Helen Keller wrote, “I thank God for my handicaps for through them I have found myself, my work and my God.”
“The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5: 11). He is greater than all our trials, difficulties, and tribulations. He is our helper in even the most intense moments of suffering. Rest on Him (1 Peter 5:7).
C. M. John – Renew In Knowledge Core Team Member
C. M. John is an evangelist and elder at Kundara Brethren Assembly in Kerala, India. He is the author of several Christian books.