2 Corinthians 1
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
The body of Christ is unlike any sociological or religious group that exists. In no other organisation or association are members called to embrace suffering and use it for the good of others. 2 Corinthians 1 is testament to this reality. Instead of promoting the betterment of self or saying that strong faith results in the good life now, Paul calls the believers in Corinth to share in each other’s sufferings. Nowhere does Paul advise them to flee from trouble or suffering, or avoid association with those who suffer, lest they too are persecuted. Instead he points to Jesus Christ, who Himself experienced an inordinately cruel and torturous form of death (verse 5). He encourages them, and us, to comfort others with the comfort we have received from the ‘God of all comfort’.
As the believers in Corinth face arrest and even death for following the Lord, Paul reminds them that he too has faced death many times. He shares with them how he ‘despaired even of life’ and felt ‘the sentence of death’ (verse 8-9). But God brought good even from that, teaching Paul to ‘rely not on [ourselves] but on God’ (verse 9). This is a mark of true community in the body of Christ – sharing in each other’s sufferings and in each other’s comfort.
No one when they first go through trouble or pain, wants to be reminded that God will use it for good to help others going through the same kind of suffering. But having others in the Body of Christ hold our hand and walk our painful road with us is the mark of true Christian community. Maybe this time we are suffering, but later on we will be the comforter. Paul had been down the path of suffering many times. He now offers the Corinthian believers a hand as they face suffering, and encourages them to comfort each other with the love of Christ.
May we be a church marked by sharing in each other’s suffering so that we may then share in the comfort of Christ.
Thank you that you call us to share in each other’s sufferings. Help us to also share the comfort we’ve received in Christ as we live in community with each other. Amen.