Monday School is brought to you again by Paul, the self-described chief sinner, grace-saved apostle of Jesus Christ. I read a lot of Paul’s letters – it’s hard not to since 13 of his letters are books in the Bible – so he inspires many of my Monday School thoughts.
Actually this week’s passage is more than a thought. This is one of those passages used by God at a pivotal time in my life to change my life. I was attending an overnight women’s conference in Georgia with a wonderful group of women during a painful season. More than painful – I thought my life was falling apart. The teacher at the conference spoke from 2 Corinthians 1:3-7:
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. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
I needed to know the God of all comfort like never before that weekend 20 years ago. And I did. I’ll never forget the peace I had on the way home. Not peace from untroubled circumstances but a deep well-being that comes from resting in God’s sovereignty and mercy. I knew the Father of mercies would be with me through that painful season and all the ones to come, and I knew I would be able to comfort others with the same comfort.
Sometimes what isn’t said is just as important as what is said. Paul didn’t say we’re comforted by a changed situation. He didn’t say we’re comforted once our difficulties go away. Paul never said we won’t suffer.
Paul said we are comforted.
By Who? The God of all comfort.
When are we comforted? In our afflictions. Other Bible versions say during our troubles and every time we have trouble.
Why are we comforted? So that we can comfort others in times of trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
Paul’s opponents questioned his ministry because of his trials. They thought his suffering disqualified him or minimized the effectiveness of his ministry but Paul proclaimed the troubles only made his ministry more powerful.
If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
Paul’s affliction and the comfort in the affliction is for our comfort.
I’ve had the privilege of comforting others going through similar trials or difficulties. I remember how I was comforted and hope I do the same. The only true comfort I can bring is to point them to the One who comforts me still.
Paul’s hope for us was unshaken because he knew the God of all comfort. He knew the Father of mercies. Paul knew God uses our trials and tribulations and the comfort in them to give us strength and to help strengthen others.
Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.