Summary: Through our relationship to Christ we share in the fellowship of suffering in general and we Share in His Suffering through: 1) The Father in Suffering (2 Cor. 1:3-4), 2) The Son in Suffering (2 Cor. 1:5-6) & 3) The Saints in Suffering (2 Cor. 1:7)
In his book (and now feature movie), The Insanity of Obedience, Nik Ripken tells about meeting Dmitri in the former USSR. Born of Christian parents, Dmitri found himself and his family living under communism in an area where the nearest church was a three-day walk away. He started teaching his family one night a week, reading from the old family Bible. It seemed a natural progression to sing, and also to pray. And a Bible study turned into real family worship. Neighbours began noticing and some of them asked if they could come and listen to the Bible stories and sing the songs A small group began gathering. Local party officials came to see Dmitri. They threatened him physically, which was to be expected. What upset Dmitri much more was their accusation: “You have started an illegal church!” “How can you say that?” he argued. “I have no religious training. I am not a pastor. This is not a church building. We are just a group of family and friends getting together. All we are doing is reading and talking about the Bible, singing, praying, and sometimes sharing what money we have to help out a poor neighbor. How can you call that a church?” “I got fired from my factory job,” Dmitri recounted. “My wife lost her teaching position. My boys were expelled from school.” When the number of people grew to seventy-five, there was no place for everyone to sit. Villagers pressed close in around the windows on the outside. Then one night as Dmitri spoke, the door to his house suddenly, violently burst open. An officer grabbed Dmitri by the shirt, slapped him across the face, slammed him against the wall, and said in a cold voice, “We have warned you and warned you and warned you. We will not warn you again! If you do not stop this nonsense, this is the least that is going to happen to you’ (Nik Ripken, The Insanity of Obedience, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group), 2014, pp. 279-282.)
In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul reflected on recent trauma which brought him to the edge of despair as he felt unbearably crushed with all hope for life draining away (1:8). A break in the clouds of this unrelenting suffering and the ray of hope afforded by the comforting news from Titus about the Corinthians’ response to his “severe letter” (7:5–11) evokes his praise for God’s unexpected grace Paul talks about his own suffering (the fellowship of suffering) and the comfort that God provides that they may have hope. (Furnish: The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 65–68).
What do you do when the difficulties arrive? Do you avoid them, secretly blame God, or try to hide? Although we may not completely understand the difficulties we find ourselves in, when we share in the fellowship of suffering with our brothers and sisters across the globe who suffer, we can trust God, receive His comfort and praise Him even in the midst of the difficulties.
Looking at 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 through our relationship to Christ we share in the fellowship of suffering in general and we Share in His Suffering through: 1) The Father in Suffering (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), 2) The Son in Suffering (2 Corinthians 1:5-6) and through 3) The Saints in Suffering (2 Corinthians 1:7)
First, through our relationship to Christ we Share in His Suffering through:
1) The Father in Suffering (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 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. (ESV)
We’ll spend most of our time on this point, less on the second, and only touch on the third.
Here, Paul launches his letter with a classic Jewish liturgical formula that praises God for His benefits. This affirmation has two implications. First, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, God is no longer to be known simply as the Father of Israel. Through Jesus Christ all, both Jew and Greek, have access to the Father (Eph 2:18). One can only truly know God as Father as the Father of Jesus Christ. Second, it declares that Jesus is the foremost blessing God has bestowed on humankind (see Col 1:12). There is oneness or fellowship for all those who put their faith in God through Jesus Christ alone. Paul now identifies God as the God of endurance and comfort (Rom 15:5), the God who gives endurance and encouragement (Rom 15:5), the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort and implies that mercies and comfort are brought to realization through Christ (1:5). For us, the word “comfort” may connote emotional relief and a sense of well-being, physical ease, satisfaction, and freedom from pain and anxiety. Many in our culture worship at the cult of comfort in a self-centered search for ease, but it lasts for only a moment and never fully satisfies. The word “comfort” “has gone soft” in modern English. In the time of Wycliffe the word was “closely connected with its root, the Latin fortis: to “fortify”. When applied to a person it represents one who is brave, strong, courageous.”( N. Watson, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Epworth Commentaries (London: Epworth, 1993) 3.)