Summary: Sometimes God gives us the opportunity to use the lessons we’ve learned and the comfort He’s given us during difficult times to help others in special ways. God doesn’t comfort us to make us comfortable; He comforts us to make us comforters.
Opening illustration: A medical school program in New York gives students who are training for geriatric medicine a unique opportunity. They experience life as nursing home residents for 10 days. They learn some of the struggles of maneuvering a wheelchair and being raised out of bed with a lift, as well as reaching the shower bar from a seated position. One student learned how little things counted for a lot - like lowering nameplates on doors so that patients can find their rooms more easily, or putting the TV remote in a reachable location.
Although the students still can’t fully relate, they will be better able to serve the elderly in their future endeavors.
Let us turn to 2 Corinthians 1 and check out what kind of training does God want to give us while comforting us …
Introduction: Where do you turn for comfort when you encounter loss, pain, or disappointment? Some people turn to food. For some reason, certain foods - like fried chicken, mashed potatoes, apple pie, and ice cream - seem to make us feel better. There’s actually some science behind comfort food. Fatty, sugar-laden foods slow the production of certain stress hormones, so we calm down. There’s some psychology behind it, too. Men typically turn to heartier foods such as meat loaf, pasta, mashed potatoes, or stew, because those were the foods their mothers used to make for them. Women, on the other hand, tend to avoid labor-intensive foods when times get tough, and opt for snacks—chocolate, chips, ice cream. If food doesn’t work, how about a drink? A cup of hot chocolate usually hits the spot. Some people go for the harder stuff. They don’t call it Southern Comfort for nothing.
Some people turn inward when life hurts. They pull back from the normal routine and relationships. They become introspective and take long walks in the woods, listen to music, or write in a journal. Others turn outward and get active; they socialize, volunteer, or visit family and friends. Some people say that comfort is simply a matter of time - keep up the routine, let the days pass, and eventually you’ll begin to feel better: time heals all wounds.
I suppose any one of these might offer a measure of comfort in a time of loss or pain, but are they really enough? Macaroni and cheese might offer some solace after a bad day at work, but it’s not going to cut it when something really bad happens. When life hurts, we need something - or someone - better than that.
Paul wrote 2 Corinthians in response to a difficult time in his life. ...
Why does God Comfort us?
1. Comfort those in trouble (vs. 3-4)
The Lord God is the source of all consolation. The Third Person in the Trinity is also identified and synonym with being ‘The Comforter.’ Paul delighted, as all should do, to trace all his comforts to God; and Paul, as all Christians have, had sufficient reason to regard God as the source of true consolation. There is no other real source of happiness but God; and he is able abundantly, and willing to impart consolation to his people. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ - A solemn and beautiful introduction, highly suitable to the apostolic spirit. The Father of mercies, and God of all comfort - Mercies are the fountain of comfort; comfort is the outward expression of mercy. God shows mercy in the affliction itself. He gives comfort both in and after the affliction. Therefore is he termed, the God of all comfort. Blessed be this God!
Paul does not say that this was the only design which God had in comforting them that they might be able to impart comfort to others; but he does say that this is an important and main purpose. It is an object which he seeks, that his people in their afflictions should be supported and comforted; and for this purpose he fills the hearts of his ministers with consolation; gives them personal experience of the sustaining power of grace in their trials; and enables them to speak of what they have felt in regard to the consolations of the gospel of the Lord Jesus. It is only by personal experience that we are able to impart consolation to others. Paul refers here undoubtedly to the consolations which are produced by the evidence of the pardon of sin, and of acceptance with God, and the hope of eternal life. These consolations abounded in him and his fellow apostles richly; and sustained by them he was able also to impart like consolation to others who were in similar circumstances of trial.
2. Consolation & Salvation (vs. 5-6)
As we are called to experience the same sufferings which Christ endured; as we are called to suffer in his cause, and in the promotion of the same object. The sufferings which they endured were in the cause of Christ and his gospel; were endured in endeavoring to advance the same object which Christ sought to promote; and were substantially of the same nature. They arose from opposition, contempt, persecution, trial, and want, and were the same as the Lord Jesus was himself subjected to during the whole of his public life. We are to be “partakers of Christ’s sufferings.”