Summary: How do we respond to those who are enduring hardships? Do we dish out criticism and judgment, or do we show genuine compassion? The experience from our own trials can help us better minister to those in trouble and anguish.
Samuel Chadwick said, “Compassion costs. It is easy enough to argue, criticize and condemn; but redemption is costly, and comfort draws from the deep. Brains can argue, but it takes heart to comfort.”(1) How do we respond to those who are enduring hardship? Do we dish out criticism and judgment, or do we provide comfort from genuine concern and compassion? Chadwick stated that redemption is costly, meaning that we must crucify our condescending pride before we can ever offer the necessary comfort to resurrect a broken heart.
The Lord does not want to see His children hurting from the pain of adversity and loss; nor does He want to see believers casting insult upon injury by offering inconsiderate words during a person’s time of grief. Therefore, He comforts us during our own trials, hoping we will allow the consolation that we have received to provide us with insight, in order to better assist those who are hurting in a similar manner. We will learn today how we must allow our own trials to lead us in compassion toward others; and that we must utilize our newfound spiritual understanding to help redeem the spiritually wounded from their pain and confusion.
The God of All Comfort (vv. 3-5)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.
Paul spoke here about “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (v. 3). The word “comfort” is stated five times in these three verses; and in addition, we see a variation with the use of the term “consolation.” The Greek word that Paul used was parakleseos, meaning, “to call to one’s side,”(2) which implies walking alongside someone as a close companion. A. T. Robertson says that another form of this word found in the New Testament is paraklete, which is “the word used by Jesus of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter.”(3)
It brings us great assurance, as believers, to learn how the Lord is the God of all comfort. In Isaiah 49:13, the prophet declared, “Break out into singing . . . for the Lord has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted.” The Lord is further identified by Paul as the God “who comforts us in all our tribulation” (vv. 3-4), meaning that He comforts us during our trials and troubles.
In Isaiah, the Lord spoke peace to His people, proclaiming, “Comfort, yes, comfort My people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). Isaiah continued to declare, “The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40:28b-29). The Lord neither sleeps nor slumbers, for He is always on guard, watching and waiting to deliver and comfort His people during trials and tribulation; and because of His unceasing consolation we have a reason to rejoice!
In verse five, we read how “the sufferings of Christ abound in us.” We often suffer for our faith in the Lord. This suffering occurs in our life as we are persecuted for our beliefs; and also, as we encounter adversity as God allows us to be tried and tested. In Revelation chapter three, the Lord stated, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (3:19); and in Hebrews chapter twelve, the reason for our chastening is explained, as we read, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (12:11).
We often wonder if there is a purpose for our suffering. Sometimes, as Hebrews stated, we undergo trials as training that will bear forth the fruit of righteousness; or rather serve the purpose of growing us in Christ-likeness. However, we read in verse four of another reason for the adversity we sometimes face, which is so that “we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
What we undergo can help those who are experiencing a similar situation; as the manner in which we are comforted is passed on to them. Elsewhere, Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth telling how he had received comfort from Titus who paid him a visit; as Titus had shared with him the same consolation that he had received from the Corinthian church. Paul stated, “God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you” (2 Corinthians 7:6-7a).