“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
Firsthand experience in suffering is essential in equipping us for ministry. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 explains how this works. As each of us suffers, and receives comfort from God in our suffering, we are then uniquely enabled to comfort others in their affliction. I find this passage so encouraging!
Let’s face it, suffering is not fun – even when you understand that it has purpose. None of us enjoy suffering. But we can find joy in suffering when we understand God’s purpose and design. There are few things more fulfilling than when I can speak out of my own past experience of suffering to encourage someone who is walking through a similar circumstance. It is almost as if I can see God redeeming that suffering right before my eyes. It reminds me that He saw every tear and heard every prayer, even though it might not have seemed like it at the time.
None of our suffering in Christ is ever in vain. He is always working for our good and His glory. Notice in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 that we are able to comfort others, “with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” In other words, our own suffering uniquely equips us to comfort others with the comfort of God, who Paul describes as, “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” As each of us experiences the life-giving comfort of God Himself, we are equipped to share that deep comfort with others. We literally become ambassadors of God’s comfort.
David Powlison, author of Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, said it this way:
“When you’ve passed through your own fiery trials, and found God to be true to what He says, you have real help to offer. You have firsthand experience of both His sustaining grace and His purposeful design. He has kept you through pain; He has reshaped you more into His image…What you are experiencing from God, you can give away in increasing measure to others. You are learning both the tenderness and the clarity necessary to help sanctify another person’s deepest distress.”
God, thank You for the comfort that only You can give. Help me to comfort others with the comfort I have received from You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.