2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to God the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God.”
I have always thought of comfort as a warm fuzzy thing; something to make me feel good like “comfort food”, a warm blanket or someone’s sympathy. But the word comfort actually comes from a Latin word which means “with strength” or to “strengthen greatly”. It’s not about giving our sympathy but giving God’s strength. The Apostle Paul goes on to say in verse 6 that the purpose of this comfort is to produce “patient endurance.” Food and blankets may bring some momentary good feelings, but they don’t really give me strength to endure. So Paul is saying that God gives us strength in our sufferings so that we can pass on that strength to others so they can endure their suffering. We can do this by telling them how God helped us and by passing on His Word (“…strengthen me according to your Word.” Psalm 119:28) and Love (“May your unfailing love be my comfort…” Psalm 119:76). When you give God the credit for your comfort and point people back to His Word and character, it lends His strength to them, not your own. There are many stories in the media and self-help books that describe people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, overcoming struggles or illnesses based on their own personal strength. While that may be commendable, personally, I don’t find these stories very comforting. What if I am not that strong? Will they be around to loan me their strength? On the other hand, God says He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He will always be there to comfort believers. And He will strengthen us with all power according to His glorious might so that we may have great endurance (Colossians 1:11).
We are also strengthened from seeing that there is a higher purpose in our struggles. My husband who gives God the credit for getting him through prostate cancer, has passed on God’s strength to many other men walking through the same trial. And God continues to send men with prostate cancer his way so he can be a source of comfort to them with the comfort he received from God. I witnessed this same principle at work when I was a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for the safety and well-being of children who have been removed from their homes due to parental abuse and neglect. These kids live in group or foster homes and often move frequently due to behavioral problems. During my involvement with this organization, I wrote some stories about kids who were thriving in spite of their circumstances. At the time, there didn’t seem to be many of them, but while interviewing those kids, a common thread became apparent: They believed in God and had a desire to do something with their lives that would help other kids rise above their circumstances. They had discovered their heavenly worth. By seeing their struggles as a way to help others like themselves, they found God’s reason and strength to endure and succeed. If your hope is in man’s strength it will rise and fall and be temporary at best. But when God is the source of your comfort and strength, it is based on the consistent character of Him “…who does not change like the shifting shadows” (James 1:17). And “…those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Is that the kind of comfort and strength you desire?
Whose strength is providing you comfort in your difficult situation?
Who needs you to comfort them with the comfort you have been given by God?