“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?