2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ESV
“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. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 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. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”
Mercy, Compassion, and Comfort
Our God is the God of mercies (compassions) and the God of all comfort, so I want to look first of all at what that means. Mercy is “compassion (pity), i.e. a deep feeling about someone’s difficulty or misfortune. It is used of the deep feelings God has for all of us, and powerfully shows and shares in those who are following him” (source: https://biblehub.com/greek/3628.htm).
The Greek word for “comfort” is “paraklesis” which means: a call (personal urging), a personal exhortation, a legal advocate, a close call that reveals how the Lord weighs in the relevant facts (evidence), a holy urging which is used of the Lord directly motivating and inspiring believers to carry out his plan, delivering his particular message to someone else; it means exhortation, warning, encouragement, and comfort (source: https://biblehub.com/greek/3874.htm).
So, this comfort never involves lying to people to make them feel better. It does not encourage them away from walking with the Lord in order to ease their suffering, either, which is what many will say. It doesn’t ignore the circumstances, either, and thus lead people to just go watch a movie or to escape into something else so that they don’t have to feel the pain, which resolves nothing, and sometimes actually adds to the suffering.
This comfort is biblical comfort as God supplies us when we are going through times of difficulty and/or persecution and/or hardships. And it is a holy urging to respond to our circumstances in the way in which God instructs us to respond. And that involves trusting him through it all, believing in his sovereignty, believing that he has a plan and a purpose for it all, and yielding our lives to his control and to carrying out his purposes for our lives through our suffering and in spite of our suffering, too.
And this comfort incorporates compassion and mercy and deep feelings about other people’s difficulties or misfortunes, so it is not cold and unconcerned, and it is not just throwing out a formula to someone and telling them to just go do this and that everything will be ok. It involves sympathy and love and sometimes crying with them and hugs and just listening to their cries. And then comes the comfort, but with sensitivity to their emotions while not giving them a false message of hope.
For, if we do not give people true hope and godly solutions for their difficulties that is no comfort at all. Lies do not comfort. They may feel good temporarily, but they resolve nothing and the pain is still there. So, we need to speak the truth in love, but it must be in love with tenderness and compassion towards those who are hurting and with sensitivity to know when to just listen and when to speak. But to never speak, and to never help, and to never urge is not true comfort. We need to be Jesus to people.
Our Sufferings Have Purpose
God does not arbitrarily just throw us out there into the world and just tell us to figure it out. If we are his children, by God-given faith in him, meaning that we have died with him to sin that we might live to him and to his righteousness, he has a plan and a purpose for our lives. And he gives us guidance and direction in how we are to live those lives for his purposes and for us his glory via his written word (the Bible) and via the Holy Spirit.
And he tells us in his word that if we follow him with our lives that it is going to be a life of suffering for the sake of his name, for the sake of his gospel, and for the sake of righteousness. That is the reality! For through suffering we learn to depend on God and not on ourselves. We also learn humility, compassion, mercy, tenderness, love, forgiveness, perseverance, and steadfastness in faith, and we grow to maturity in Christ through suffering.
[Rom 5:3-5; Phil 3:7-11; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 1 Pet 4:12-17; 1 Thess 3:1-5; Jas 1:2-4; Matt 5:10-12; Lu 21:12-19; 2 Co 1:3-11; Heb 12:3-12]
And one of the reasons he allows us to go through times of suffering is so that we can be compassionate and merciful and helpful to others who are going through similar sufferings as we have had to suffer through in our lives. We can feel what they feel because we have gone through it ourselves, and so we should have great sensitivity in knowing how best to respond to them in their suffering.
And we should understand that just giving someone a pat on the back is not helpful. They need godly counsel, too. We should share with them a Scripture verse or a hymn or a spiritual song or a spiritual poem or a writing or a speaking of some kind that would be biblical and that would lift their spirits and/or that would urge them to seek God’s counsel and wisdom. Even just an encouragement to keep looking to God for their help is good!
We do not want to give worldly and ungodly counsel to them, though, no matter how good it may sound. For it is not true comfort if we comfort them with lies and with counsel not of God, which is often opposed to God. I see a lot of this on Facebook memes which have a hint of Christianity in them but which give out ungodly and worldly and fleshly counsel, and that is not good, and it is not helpful.
We want to lead people to God, to Jesus Christ, and to his word and to the truths contained within, for there they will find true comfort and true solutions for what they are going through. Only through walks of faith in Jesus Christ where we submit to his Lordship, and we trust in his counsel and wisdom, and we follow him in his ways and in his truth will we find true peace, comfort, encouragement, and hope that will last.
Then, no matter what any of us are going through, no matter how hard the trial may be, we can say with the writer of this song, “It is well with my soul.” All glory to God! Only in his strength, power, and wisdom!
It Is Well with My Soul
Lyrics by H. G. Spafford, 1873
Music by Philip P. Bliss, 1876
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well; it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well; it is well with my soul.