We have and will suffer on this earth. God has never promised us anything different than that fact. From Elijah to Jeremiah, from Stephen to Paul, all of God’s people have suffered. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the state of his suffering. Something was happening to him in Asia. Paul said, “we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves” (2nd Cor. 1:9). Have you ever felt that you were burdened beyond measure? Have you felt like the world has sentenced you to death? You probably have.
Thankfully, Paul shares his outlook on his suffering. Paul says that he might be sentenced to death, but he has put his trust “in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us” (2 Cor. 1:9-10). God has the power to raise the dead. Even if our suffering leads to death, who better to put our trust in than He who has conquered death?
This amazing attribute of our Lord makes Him the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3). There is no one that God cannot bring comfort to. Even in our darkest hours, God can find a way to bring us comfort. David speaks of this as well in Psalm 23.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4)
There was no evil in existence that David feared because he knew the Lord was with him. He could walk boldly through the valley of the shadow of death knowing that his Lord could conquer death.
When we are suffering, do we show others the attitude of Paul or the faith of David? Paul suggests to the Corinthians that his afflictions were a teaching tool to bring the Corinthians comfort in their own sufferings.
“Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same suffering which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.” (2 Cor. 1:6)
Paul says that he suffered as an example for others to learn how to suffer and trust in God. If Paul was comforted, it was an example to others of the comfort of God. Perhaps when we suffer, God is using us to help the suffering of others. They could look to us and say, “Our brother or sister persevered through this extremely difficult situation, I can perservere too through my current situation. I just need to rely on the God of all comfort like they did.”
Paul leaves us with two things we can do through suffering. First, we can share with others what we are going through. We are taught from early on to hide and conceal our problems. However, Paul tells the Corinthians that he did not want them to be ignorant of his current trouble. (2nd Cor. 1:8) Second, we can pray to God for comfort and help. Paul says that the Corinthians were helping him because they were praying for him! When we need comfort, let us first go to God in prayer and ask for the prayers of others. After all, He is the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:11).
— Andrew Smith