The word of the day is “comfort.” Who does not need comfort amid grief and hardships? But where do we find it? Today in 2 Corinthians 1-17, we begin to read Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth. After his introduction, the apostle writes about the “comfort” that God gives in “tribulation” (vs. 4). Today we explore Paul’s trials and how he receives comfort from God as he faces them. Thus he is a suburb example to us of how we might find solace amid loss and difficulty.
Paul’s Sorrow over the Trouble in Corinth
Paul wrote our passage at a low point in Paul’s ministry. He had endured such “trouble” in Ephesus that he feared for his life (vs. 8). Now, Paul grieved over the rebelliousness of his congregation at Corinth.
Paul had planned to visit Corinth later in the year. But when the apostle learned how extreme the disorder was in Corinth, he hurried to Corinth to set things straight. But his visit did not go well. Paul left as quickly as he arrived. Back in Ephesus, the apostle grieved for his flock. From there, he wrote that he had changed his plans again (vs. 16). He would not return to Corinth to “spare” his flock another ugly confrontation (vs. 23).
Thus, Paul had more than his share of “tribulation.” The root of the Greek word has to do with “pressure” that presses us down. That is, we are “burdened” (Strong’s #2347). Later in his epistle, Paul refers to the burdens he carries when he speaks of all the sufferings that his opponents have piled on him (vs. 11:29). He writes that besides these “abuses “…what comes upon me daily [is] my deep concern for all the churches” (vs. 11:28).
Comforted While Enduring
Yet even while enduring all these “pressures,” Paul affirms that he is “comforted.” He refers to comfort four times in two verses. The sense here is that of a combination of profound pity, compassion, encouragement, and consolation (Strong’s #3870). The term “comfort” in English is a good translation of this easing of grief, soothing of sorrow, and solace of sharing.
Note that Paul does not look to his friends and supporters for such comfort. He finds it in “God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ” (vs. 1:3). But the Father in Heaven gives this blessing of caring that “we” might share it with others (vs. 4).
Solace and Affliction Go Together
Solace from God the Father and affliction go hand in hand. In the proportion that the Heavenly Father permits the sorrow, he also bestows comfort in equal measure. And both are for the encouragement, endurance, and salvation of others in the household of faith (vs. 6).
Whatever sorrow we have, the Lord is with us to offer us an equal measure of comfort. Of this balance of grief and consolation, the Russian and Orthodox novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote in Crime and Punishment, “The darker the night, the brighter the stars, the deeper the grief, the closer to God.”