Comfort in Our Affliction: The Blessing of Trials
“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.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Nobody likes personal affliction, nobody looks for life crisis, yet none of us can avoid it. In this verse the word affliction is the Greek word “thlipsei” and it means distress, hardship, troubles, or pressure. Paul uses this word nine times in 2 Corinthians. It seems to be a theme of the letter. Bible Knowledge Commentary makes this observation about our verses for today, “One of the many paradoxes of the Christian life is that the grace of God is most keenly experienced not in the best but in what seem to be the worst of times. However much a Christian longs for exaltation (cf. 1 Cor. 4:8), it is often in humiliation that he finds grace (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9). That theme pervades this letter and finds poignant expression in Paul’s thanksgiving.”
The joy of these verses is that we will be able to comfort others, come alongside them as they are experiencing their “thlipsei,” to do for them what God did for us, probably through others, as we experienced the “thlipsei” in our own life. The ministry of comforting others is truly a blessing, maybe even life-changing, and is an encouragement to us. That is because the hard truth of this verse is that in order for us to comfort others we had to experience the “thlipsei” affliction ourselves. Troubles, Paul said, “help Christians shift their perspective from the external and temporal to the internal and eternal (cf. 1:9; 4:17–18).” The implication is that our afflictions are not wasted. There is meaning and ultimately they equip us to help others. By experience we know what the enemy meant for evil, God means for good, Gen. 50:20 (sort of). Maybe today it is an encouragement to you to hold onto the truth that your affliction is not wasted. In fact, it can be our anchor in the storm to know that God will use our journey through affliction to grow us in our trust in Him and to comfort others. And as believers we know from experience that this is true.
Getting through our affliction and comforting others can only happen because of God. Paul uses three names here to refer to God. Look at verse 3, “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” “Father of mercies,” and “God of all comfort.” With these very precise references to God, Paul reminds us that it is God who is the source of all comfort and Paul knows this intellectually, theologically, and experientially. Our “thlipsei” does not escape God’s merciful kindness nor are they beyond His personal ministry of comforting us, His children, so that we can comfort others in the same manner. Every day we can call on what we have experienced to bring comfort to others in the same way God met us in our affliction, comforted us, and then gave us the joy of meeting others in their time of need.
Father, let me remember the affliction, not to ruminate or feel victimization, but to remember your great sustaining hand through the affliction. Show me how to turn the evil meant to derail me, to modeling the comfort you graciously showed me and to comfort others and point them to you. If it pleases you, Father, remind me of your kindness and comfort when I was the lowest. Help me see someone who is experiencing “thlipsei” and to offer to walk with them in their hard journey remembering how “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” “Father of mercies,” and “God of all comfort” helped me during my time of need.