As a child, my grandma used to sing an old hymn that reminded her to remember the blessing of God even in difficult circumstances. It was called “Count Your Blessings,” and it was a staple of her day. I remember the chorus of this song and often use the words to help me when I feel afflicted. It can feel so great to think about all the ways God has blessed our lives, but as I read 2 Corinthians, one section challenged my thinking with concern to comfort.
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul says, “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.”
In reading the book of Acts, as well as the epistles authored by Paul, we become familiar with the abundant and diverse sufferings met by Paul. Ranging from poisonous snake bites and shipwrecks to imprisonment and beatings, Paul, much like Jesus, was a man acquainted with suffering.
It would seem, given the circumstances, that Paul may consider stopping the above passage at the start of verse 4, “Praise God, the Father of mercies who comforts us in all our affliction.” That sounds wonderful! However, Paul continues and divulges the greater, selfless purpose of the comfort in our sufferings. God comforts us not that we may simply feel better, but instead that we may provide similar comfort to those around us.
Although most of us will never suffer in a similar fashion to Paul, as Christ-followers, we are undoubtedly surrounded on all sides by a sinful world and a prowling devil. Our destruction is being sought by all manner of spiritual powers of darkness. The more we give to Christ, the more we will find ourselves under attack. The easy way out is to only seek God for personal comfort, but the Jesus thing to do is to take that comfort from God and give it to those around us who are similarly suffering. This requires two huge actions. First, we must be honest enough to express when we are hurting. This can be truly embarrassing but is essential if we are to live in real community. Second, we must be willing to dig deeper into the lives of others in order to empathize with their difficulties and then demonstrate and speak of the mercy of God continually seeking to comfort as God comforts us.
Hardship seems to find a way to snowball. One hurt is followed by another, and before we know it, there is a tidal way of damage tearing through our lives. God desires to comfort us, reminding us of His great mercy. In this comfort, we must remember to turn outward and pass the blessing of comfort to others.