Comfort and Affliction

Part 1; Part 2

Part 3
“Why?” is a tough question. It seems like every time I try to burp an infant I get this, “Why are you beating me?” look. I try to explain, but it seems to fall on deaf ears.


We don’t always receive answers to our “Why?” questions. Why did I lose my job? Why did I experience this loss? Why did this happen to me? Job is probably the best example of God choosing not to give answers to the “Why” questions of life. God never gave Job reasons, instead God reminded him who was God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 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. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 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. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”

Paul addresses the reality of affliction in the lives of the believers of Corinth. That city, as you probably well know, was not the ideal place for a believer. (Judging by Paul’s letters to the church there, I am not sure that even the church was a good place for a believer at times!) Undoubtedly they experienced affliction from both natural and supernatural causes, as do all believers. Paul’s use of “affliction” refers to “trouble that inflicts distress, oppression, affliction, tribulation” (BDAG). Affliction is an external reality that often produced an inward anguish (2 Cor 2:4).

In this passage we have a partial answer to the question of “Why?”

1. Believers suffer so that they might share in Christ’s suffering (5)
Suffering with Christ was seen as a privilege in the early church. The apostles were martyred, the early church fathers laid down their lives, believers accepted their fate as they confessed Christ. Believers around the world share that same idea today.

2. Believers suffer so that God may comfort them through Christ (3-5)
God is the God of all comfort. He is not a God who is far off, but one who has chosen to suffer for his creation (John 19) and suffer with his creation (John 11:35). No other religion offers that.

3. Believers suffer so that they might comfort others (4)
When a believer has suffered, that individual has been given a unique ability to comfort someone else. The greater the pain felt, the greater the understanding of comfort.

A friend of mine works in a jail. In order to carry a stun gun, each officer must experience the power of the tool. They do not do so by watching a video. They must receive the shock themselves. This gives them an appreciation for what they hold in their hands.

Someone who has felt the pain of affliction can now sympathize with another in that situation. They are able to point them to the God of comfort as someone who has received it.

Next post I would like to give several suggestions about using your experience to give comfort. These come from watching others model them recently in our lives.

When you have experienced affliction, how has God given you comfort?

Comfort: 4 Groups

Burdens are weights. Weights crush if the burden bearer is not strong enough. Do you remember the burden that you had? Do you remember sharing it with someone else? Chances are you shared it with one of these four types of people:


1. Those who don’t understand the situation and don’t understand comfort

You have talked with these people. You share with them that huge boulder on your soul and the conversation just moves on. You may get a momentary pause, but the awkwardness prevails and you return to the importance of the weather forecast.

You probably don’t get upset at most people like this. They just don’t understand what comfort is, or why you would need it. The worst part of the whole deal is normally just that sinking feeling you have after your burden comes rolling back on you. You can get used to this.

2. Those who don’t understand the situation but understand comfort.

This second group of people are special. You share your burden with them and they feel the weight. They love you by recognizing how hard it must be for you. They have no idea of what it would be like to be experiencing what you are right now, but they know you hurt. They hurt with you.

We have had these people call and leave voicemails during very difficult times in our lives. All they could say was how sorry they were for us. There were pauses where you could tell they were choking back tears. These people recognize that your burden is heavy and wish they could carry it with you…and by wishing they could they actually are.

3. Those who understand the situation but don’t understand comfort

Sadly, I have been this person for too many hurting people. We are the ones who spend our time trying to tell you our story so you understand that we understand. In all of that we miss out on giving comfort. We like to prove to you that we can understand your pain because we have experienced something similar ourselves. In an effort to dig up our own burden for you to see, we roll yours and ours right back on top of you.

Normally I just assume that I am building rapport. I think sharing my burden with you will help you somehow. I may have been in a very similar situation as you, but it was not the same. I am not feeling it at this very moment like you are. You are feeling the full weight, I am not. I forget that though my situation may have been “worse” for various reasons, you are in the midst of it, not I.

4. Those who understand the situation and understand comfort

These people are “tenderhearted” (Eph 4:32) because they feel with you. It were as though they were suffering too. They understand what you are dealing with. Maybe they have lost a loved one too. Maybe they have spent weeks in the hospital too. Maybe they have felt the sting of unexpected loss. Because they have been there, and because they understand comfort, they let the weight of your burden rest on them for a while.

These people seldom dig up their burden to show you. And because they don’t, you may believe they are in the second category. But their silence, understanding, and reassurance show that they understand comfort, and they understand enough of your situation to know what to do, give comfort.

We recently experienced this. They had visited in the hospital, prayed, cried, and reassured. It was only several days later that I realized that this individual had experienced something so similar to what I was in the midst of. When that realization hit I thanked God for sending true comforters.

Would you add any categories? Have you seen these in your own lives? Leave a comment.

Later I would like to address 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, and a possible way to give comfort by sharing your personal experiences.

You said what?!

Series note: The “You said what?!” posts are my effort to make life on this little round earth a little more bearable. I seek to shame those who say stupid things. If you are one of those people, please take offense and say something that I can write about next post.


“Well, at least…”

We were without a home for awhile. It was a messy ordeal, but we have survived with only mild side affects (a nervous tick and a deadly fear of moving trucks).

The story is simple. Put in an offer on a foreclosure. Offer accepted by bank. Closing date set for first week of July. Terminate our apartment lease. Pack everything up. Get call from bank saying we have to wait a week. Move all our stuff to the garage of new place. Camp out in old apartment. Move to our pastor’s home for the few days before closing. Bank delays. About two months after original date, close on the house (a day after putting a deposit in on another apartment). You know, the normal.


One of the comments we cherished during that time was… “Well, at least you don’t have kids…”

Thank you for that. My hat goes off to you, Pessimist Person, for showing me my good forture.

This comment, “Well, at least…” is a real gumdrop. It is normally uttered by the pessimist trying to convince you that things could be worse. I say it is a pessimist, because who else would walk through the hallways of their mind looking for a way things could be worse?

The “Well, at least…” game is great fun. We could play it all day long! At least I don’t weigh a thousand pounds. At least I don’t have four arms. At least I don’t have a nervous tick…well, too late.

Dear Pessimist Person, your “well, at least..” may be your attempt at pointing me to some silver lining, but maybe it is making me miss it. Maybe I don’t need to know how bad things could be, or imagine what I would look like with four arms (more nervous ticks enter here). Maybe instead of “well, at least…” you could just say “that’s tough,” or “I’m sorry you have to face that.” How about instead of “well, at least…” you could just pray with me.

Instead of the “Well, at least…” gem, how have people encouraged you in tough circumstances?

Later this week I would like to look at comfort. Some understand it. Some don’t.