One of the questions that inevitably forms in our mind when tragedy strikes is, “Why did God allow this to happen to me?” That’s a legitimate question with multiple layers of answers, some of which we probably will never know this side of glory, but this week’s text provides us with at least one of the answers to the “why” question: God wants to use you as an instrument of comfort.
Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 1:1-11: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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 will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.
The word comfort is used in some form 10 times in 5 verses (v3-7). Do you think that Paul is trying to make a point? He begins by praising God. Why? It’s because God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. Friend, isn’t that the kind of God that you want to serve? In times of trials and tribulations, He is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.
It’s important to realize that mercy is getting what you do not deserve. That’s just who God is. We don’t deserve mercy and comfort, but God delights in giving it. The psalmist begged God in Psalm 119:153-156, “Look upon my affliction and rescue me, for I do not forget Your law. Plead my cause and redeem me; revive me according to Your word. Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Your statutes. Great are Your mercies, O LORD; revive me according to Your ordinances.” Later the psalmist said, “The LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The LORD is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works. All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, and Your godly ones shall bless You,” (Psalm 145:8-10).
Friend, in the midst of your fiery trial and grief, God is full of mercy and comfort. Even though it is He who has ultimately brought you through the fire, He desires to heal you and comfort you and does so gladly. He comforts you because He loves you.
But, Paul points us to another reason here in our text. He comforts us so that we can comfort others who are afflicted. Notice the chain of events presented here: we are afflicted → God comforts us → we comfort others with the comfort that God has given us.
You know, experience makes a big difference. I could try to tell you all day long how work on a car, but it wouldn’t do much good. You wouldn’t really want me to because I have basically zero experience in working on cars. What you really need is a veteran mechanic to explain it all for you because experience makes a difference.
In the same way, a person is just better able to comfort another when they themselves have been through something similar. Those of you who have lost a spouse are specially equipped to minister to those who will lose a spouse. Those of you who have miscarried a child are specially equipped to minister to those who will miscarry a child. Those of you who have gone through a divorce are specially equipped to minister to those who will go through a divorce. Those of you who have endured some disease are specially equipped to minister to those who will face disease.
Amy Carmichael, one of the great missionaries in church history, said, “God never wastes His children’s pain.” Paul basically says the same thing here in this passage when he says that if he is afflicted, it’s for somebody else’s comfort. Friend, you have been fashioned through the fiery trial for many purposes, one of which is to be God’s instrument of comfort to others.
May you add preparing to be God’s instrument of comfort to your toolbox against grief.
-This article first appeared in the April 13 edition of the Baptist and Reflector, the official newspaper of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, as a commentary on the April 17, 2011 LifeWay Sunday School curriculum Bible Studies for Life, and can be accessed through the B&R website at https://www.tnbaptist.org/BRARticle.asp?ID=3781. The article has been slightly edited here for westmainbaptist.com.