If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. (2 Corinthians 1:6 ESV)
If there ever was an expert on affliction, the Apostle Paul could be named such. Later, in this letter, Paul recounts these trials and afflictions (2 Corinthians 11:24-33:
- The Jews beat him with thirty-nine lashes five times.
- He was beaten with rods three times.
- He was stoned.
- He was shipwrecked three times.
- On frequent journeys we faced danger from: rivers, robbers, his own people, Gentiles, the city, the wilderness, the sea, and false Christians.
- On frequent journeys he was: in toil and hardship, unable to sleep, hungry and thirsty, without food, cold and without shelter.
- At Damascus, the governor was searching for Paul to seize him. He narrowly escaped by being let down in a basket through a window in the city’s wall.
What’s more, responsibility for leadership in the Church still loomed over his head during all of these trials. In light of all this, Paul would seem justified to list the ways he’d suffered for the faith, but he didn’t. He didn’t tell the church at Corinth, “See what I’m doing for God? You’re not trying hard enough!” He didn’t use guilt and shame as manipulative tools, though he easily could have. Instead, Paul started the letter off by saying: “We apostles have suffered much for Jesus’ name, but when one of us suffers, we all suffer. We know some of you patiently suffer afflictions too. But don’t give up, because there is comfort here.”
Paul assures us of at least two things here:
- We are one body. When God is at work in our brothers and sisters, he is also at work in us. This is why he wrote in the verses leading up to today’s text (emphasis added): “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in 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. (2 Corinthians 1:1-4)
- Not only is God at work in all of us, but we can trust him to comfort us no matter what hardships we face in life. Our God is for us (Romans 8:31), he loves us (John 3:16; Romans 5:8, 8:37-39; Ephesians 2:4-5), and he sent a Comforter and a Helper that is always with us (John 14:16-17).
Remember, when you are suffering and afflicted, you have a Comforter. More than this, God will use your hardship to help others through trials of their own. As Christians, we are the comforted who are comforting.
When God works in one of us, he works in all of us.