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Compassion and Comfort

Compassion and Comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

I think it’s reasonable to say that Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth is quite possibly his most intimate letter... maybe his most personal Epistle... in the fact that he’s so open and honest and transparent about his hardships and his struggles... and he writes about his difficulties in several different places through out the Epistle... but nowhere more vividly (in my opinion) than in the fourth chapter.

Listen as a read a couple of verses...

Paul said, “we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed... we are perplexed, but not in despair... persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.”

I love this scripture... and I’ve turned to it countless times when facing trial and difficulty in my own life.

Paul was describing the tension that WE, as followers of Christ, experience while living with and for Christ... while at the same time, experiencing struggle and trial and difficulty in this life.

Of course, I think you and I need to remember: Paul was no trained philosopher... he wasn’t a professional theologian... or some elitist writing from an ivory tower, pondering “suffering” while never having really experienced it himself!

Paul had both inflicted suffering (he’d caused suffering), and, he had in fact suffered on account of Christ. He’d been a prisoner, held captive, at least 7 times... and wrote at least 5 of his Epistles while “in chains” - confinement. But, Paul was also a pastor. A missionary in hostile territory. A herald of the Good News of Jesus Christ in a world that didn’t know it needed that Good News!

He suffering with and for the churches that he’d planted...

So, when Paul talks about the compassion of God... and about the comfort of God... he’s sharing from personal experience, and I believe that you and I can trust that experience to speak to our own experiences of trials and sufferings today.

Just think about the wonderful phrases and words that Paul used to describe God... Paul called God the “Father of compassion”... and the “God of all comfort”!

The word compassion comes from a Greek word that implies having a deep awareness of someone else’s pain in their suffering. It moves beyond sympathy, to empathy. I think that’s important for us to understand because we often say to one another, “We serve a God who knows our suffering, we pray to a God who knows our pain.” Which is true, no doubt. But it’s more than God knowing “about” our suffering and “seeing” our pain from a distance... God actually suffers along side us... He “knows” - he feels our pain. Viscerally. God grieves when we grieve. God’s heart breaks when we’re heartbroken. He’s not absent our pain. He’s in the midst of it... He’s very much with us, through it all.

Of course, we all know that God suffered as Jesus suffered... as Christ gave himself for us, God was suffering, for you and me... beginning the process of restoration... and sacrificing himself for our deliverance. Our salvation.

He is the God of compassion, as he feels our distress and is with us in our trials... and He’s the God of all comfort.

The word “comfort” is interesting, too! It can be translated encouragement, consolation, offering aid. It’s the same word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit... the Comforter. The Paraclete. The counselor who comforts and encourages us along our personal journey of life and faith.

It’s not just that God knows, and is aware of... and even feels our pain. But on a much deeper level, God is with us in our suffering... and he comforts us as only a God who is with us, can.

God is among us... as we face this life with Him.

Now think about that for a moment: The very same God that we call Holy... and Omnipotent and Omniscience, all knowing and all powerful Creator of the heavens and the earth... is also, the Father of Compassion and the God of all comfort... the One who comforts us in all our troubles.

In other words, the transcendent Creator of the universe, the One Who is sovereign over all things... is also close enough to hear our cries, to see our tears, to know our pain.

Note the word “all” - as in “he is the God of all comfort” who comforts us in all our troubles. The word translated “all” - literally means - ALL. The fact is, there are no exceptions... He is with us in all our struggles. He offers comfort to those who are lonely... to those who are mourning... He comforts us in our frustrations, and anxieties, our worries and fears. All means all...

God in Christ is here to comfort YOU in your trials, and heartaches. He couldn’t be the God of all comfort, if he were not here for you... and for me... personally, intimately, acutely aware of our situation...

Our struggles are surely different. We have different trials and different concerns... but we all have need of the God of compassion and all comfort, don’t we? We all need compassion and comfort in this life. And the Good News is, the God of compassion, the God of all comfort, is here, with us.

I heard a message a couple of weeks ago... that reminded me that throughout the pandemic we’ve been told over and over: “We’re all in this together.” But that’s not really true... is it? The truth is, we’re not really in this together... we’re all in this individually, and differently.

One commentator said... our situation seems like we’re all in boats, individual boats... in the middle of a huge storm... at sea. Some of our boats are small and feel like we could tip-over at any moment (maybe some our boats have actually already tipped!). Others have boats that are larger, and that feel more stable in the storm, at the moment... but, we all know... it only take one “rogue wave” to capsize the largest of ships.

It’s a good analogy... it reminds me of our first lesson. As Jesus and his disciples were in a boat, too, in the midst of a storm! The disciples were terrified... and Jesus was asleep... taking a nap in the front of the boat! The disciples were panicked and anxious... but Jesus was calm and peaceful, even as the wind and waves rocked the boat.

We’re all in this storm, and we’re all experiencing the waves differently... from our own perspective... our own situation in life.

But the promise is this: HE is in the boat. God is with us. God hears our prayers, our cries... he knows our worries and our griefs... and the God of ALL comfort, comforts us in all our troubles.

Of course, we Christians are not exempt from trials and pain. In fact, some of the best known Christians and pastors... have suffered their own afflictions. The great English preacher Charles Spurgeon who famously said, “Christ’s {suffering on the cross} exempts us from sin, but not from sorrow” was plagued, himself, by chronic pain... John Wesley was reported to have had marital problems (an unhappy home life)... C. S. Lewis lost his wife to cancer, and suffered from grief... Paul, the apostle, had a “thorn in his flesh” that he pleaded with the Lord to take away... but God’s response, “My grace is sufficient for you.” And that’s his same response to you, and me, today.

Christ suffered the cross to help us endure suffering, not to enable us to escape it. That’s our promise in Christ. A promise that reminds us of our hope filled assurance in Jesus... he is always with us... helping us to endure ALL that life brings our way.

As the Palmist said, thousands of years ago... “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me...”

Maybe suffering helps us identify with Christ. Maybe we should see our trials as a means of walking with Jesus... as a way of drawing us closer and closer to Christ...

I do know this: my own personal trials have all served, in the long run, to strengthen my walk with Christ. They were not all appreciated at the time... but they have all reminded me, that I never walk alone... and the trials God has seen me through, all give me hope, for the next trial that’s just around the bend. That hope helps me to understand and appreciate that “every test, can become a testimony” - as we learn to comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. Amen.

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