The God Of All Comfort
As Paul starts this letter to strengthen the church in Corinth, he reflects on the amazing way in which God had sustained him through many troubles. He suffered because of his commitment to announce Jesus and live for Him. The Christians in Corinth also struggled. Caught in a pincer movement between traditional Judaism and immoral paganism, following Jesus did not fit either culture. So, when other preachers came to offer more comfortable options (2 Corinthians 11:13-15), the suffering believers were deceived into despising Paul and the true gospel.
And yet Paul loved the church. He wanted to assure them that he fully understood their grief. He too had experienced the intense hostility of the world, but also received God's deeply satisfying comfort (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). Paul described God as 'the Father of compassion' and 'the God of all comfort': very strong and reassuring phrases. 'Compassion' is an expression of God's loving nature; always ready to be merciful to weak humanity when buffeted by the world, flesh and devil. 'Comfort' is the inner strength we receive when we call out to Him in our distress. Paul had learned that God's compassionate character is constantly reliable; He is always ready to comfort all who cry out to Him (2 Timothy 4:16-17). Indeed, so-called 'comfort' which does not come through God, will always lead to weakness rather than strength.
Paul wanted the church to know that he was deeply concerned for them in their suffering, because he shared it. His apparent remoteness, while looking after other churches, did not mean that he had given up on them. But they must gain their comfort from the same fountain as he did, and Jesus did – from God the Father. The comfort we receive strengthens us to comfort others, encouraging others to seek the Lord. Paul's hope for the Corinthian church was that they should follow his example of trusting the Lord through suffering, to receive His heart-satisfying strength.
Nobody enjoys suffering. It is how we react to it that matters. The troubles which come because of our faith in the Lord can only be comforted by Him: only He has the power to transform the outlook of our battered hearts. But, in times of suffering, we are at risk of being lured away from the truth of His Word by teachers offering us an easier way. They seem so sincere and their solutions seem so attractive, but hollow promises cannot bring true comfort. The way of Jesus and the apostles was through persecution and pain, but Father God sustained them through it. So, when troubles come, cry out to the Father of compassion and let the God of all comfort, comfort you.
© Dr Paul Adams