Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings,so also you share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
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"We share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ..."
If you think about it, this is not a verse that you expect to see beautifully illustrated on an Instagram feed or hand lettered into the perfect wall art. Why? Because it is hard. Difficult. Unattractive. And uncomfortable.
We, as humans, do not like to suffer. And it is certainly not something that we like to discuss or admit, let alone display vividly for all to see.
Instead, our fallen world tells us to hide suffering. Cover it. Mask it. Fake it.
But as Paul writes, we share with Christ in His suffering so that we too can share with Him in His blessings. Because of our faith in Jesus, our suffering is not pointed to death. Instead, every bit of our pain and toil is worked together to produce life-giving comfort; eternal comfort.
But I love the real focus of this passage.
You see...If you look at it, it is not centered on our suffering OR our comfort. Paul is not trying to get us to focus on our current state at all. Instead, the focus is on the comfort that we can (and are called to) extend to others. Each time we do so, our past suffering is given way to producing life in others.
To often, I overlook the beautiful opportunity that I have each and every day to produce life-giving comfort from my suffering....all by extending grace upon grace to those who are hurting around me.
The other week, this rang true in my life.
In an unexpected conversation, I felt something swell up in me to a degree that I had never felt before. I was listening to the hard and vulnerable confession of another. He sat in my home and disclosed sins and struggles that he had left buried inside for many, many years.
At first, I was disappointed. Upset. Angry at him for withholding this from me for so long.
But then a switch happened in my heart. In a flash, I began acting from what I have known - from what I have been shown. I came in close to him and offered a type of compassion and love that I had never felt come from me before.
It was as if my mind went behind as my spirit stepped forward to self-disclose, encourage, call out, and build up. And as this was happening, I realized something extraordinary: Everything that I was doing had been done for me by others.
The way that I vulnerably spoke was how it was spoken to me. The way that I encouraged was how I was encouraged. The way that I offered grace was how I was offered grace. And the forgiveness that poured from my heart was the same forgiveness that was poured into my heart.
And it hit me: This is why I have suffered. This is what God means in His promise to make all things good. This is why my testimony is the way it is. For this reason. For this moment. And every moment like it. So that I can share over and over the life-giving comfort that I was given.
You see, our sufferings and our comforts are to never end with us. Instead, they are to always flow through us.
If you think about it, this is the way of Christ. His suffering has been made known to us so that His comfort may do the same. And you and I have the calling to imitate Christ - to be vulnerable about our suffering so that it flows from us to comfort those around us.
Whether you recognize this or not, your suffering is powerful in God's economy; for He always takes suffering and produces life. It is a God-given promise. It may not be as we expect. And it certainly may not be in our preferred time table. But our faithful God has promised to comfort us SO THAT WE may extend that life-giving comfort to others.
Here are some practical take-aways...
1. What are some of the ways that God has comforted you in your suffering? Sometimes this is easier to list out when thinking through WHO He has used to comfort you. Ask yourself: What did they do? How did they show me love? Encouragement? Grace? Hope? What sentences did they say that have stuck with me?
2. Who is someone that you can extend comfort to today? Perhaps they just simply need to hear your story of suffering. Maybe they need the exact display of comfort that you were given.
We pray that the Lord teaches you incredible things about His depth of love while you extend His comfort to others.
Greg, Declare Glory
Today's image from God's Fingerprints: