Summary: God comforts us so that we can comfort others to trust God.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of a handful of German theologians to stand up to the Nazification of the German church. Bonhoeffer’s courage thrust him into leadership in that part of the Protestant church that opposed Hitler. He founded an underground seminary in Bavaria, which was closed by Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler. This led to his joining the resistance movement and his being imprisoned by the Gestapo in April 1943. Bonhoeffer’s Letters from Prison became a best seller after the war.
Among the letters is a beautiful poem written to his fiancée Maria von Wedemeyer entitled “New Year 1945.” Stanza 3 is famous:
Should it be ours to drain the cup of grieving
Even to the dregs of pain,
At thy command, we will not falter,
Thankfully receiving all that is given
By thy loving hand.
Those touching and piercing words became more so when, three months later, just as the war was ending; Bonhoeffer was hung in Flossenburg prison.
Fast-forward to some eighteen years later, across the Atlantic in America, when another bride-to-be was grieving the death of her fiancé’ and found much comfort in Bonhoeffer’s poem. Her fiancé’, who died from injuries in a sledding accident, was the son of author Joe Bayly and his wife May Lou. When she mailed Bonhoeffer’s poem to them, Joe and Mary Lou also found comfort in “New Year 1945.”
Twelve years after this (thirty years after Bonhoeffer’s death), Joe Bayly received a letter from a pastor-friend in Massachusetts relating that he had visited a terminally ill woman in a Boston hospital for some period and had given her Joe’s book of poems, Heaven, as comfort for her soul. The pastor said that the dying woman had stayed awake late the previous night to read it, and told him of the comfort and help she had received from it. A few hours later she died. The woman, the pastor revealed, was Maria von Wedemeyer-Weller, Bonhoeffer’s fiancée three decades earlier! (R. Ken Hughes)
At the very beginning of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians Paul tells them that God comforts us so that we can comfort others to trust God. Sometimes that comfort will come full circle like the story of Bonhoeffer. Paul, the author of half of the books of the New Testament, writes more about suffering than any other writer in the Bible, and Paul writes a lot about suffering. In this passage Paul says more about comfort and suffering than anywhere else in his writings. The word “comfort” occurs no less than 10 times in its verb and noun form in this brief paragraph. That’s one-third of the 31 times it is used in all the New Testament.
There’s a reason for this. He is answering his critics who said that the sufferings that characterized his life were evidence that he was not an apostle. If he were the real deal, he wouldn’t experience so much trouble. Paul’s answer is that his abundant suffering and overflowing comfort are in fact signs that he is a genuine apostle of the Lord Jesus.
Come as you are when you need comfort because God is a God of comfort.
I. GOD IS A GOD OF COMFORT (2 COR. 1:3-4)
(3) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
The word “praise” is our word eulogy, meaning a good word. Paul eulogizes God. He speaks a good word about God. It’s not uncommon to find people speaking a questioning word about God when they suffer, “Where is God when I suffer?” Others speak an accusing word; “If God cared he would not allow me to suffer as I do?” Some deny God. Many stories are told of people who lost their faith in God after some tragedy entered their life. But Paul’s response to suffering was to praise God. Why?
Because Paul learned that the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” Paul is not saying Jesus is less than God the Father. He is saying they are equal in relationship with one another.
What we clearly learn about the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is He is the God of compassion or mercy. We experience many trials and tribulations in this life. During those heartaches God shows us compassion. Some people wrongly believe that the Old Testament reveals God as wrathful. It’s not true. He is shown to be very merciful. I can prove it with one passage but there are many passages I could cite.
The LORD is my shepherd;