Hovering over the “God of all comfort” in the opening verses of 2Corinthians this morning. Ten times the word “comfort” appears in the first seven verses. How does that not register on your radar in times like these? To rephrase an old, old song, “What the world needs now, is comfort, sweet comfort.”
And what hits me is that comfort is a dynamic. God comforts that we may be able to comfort. God supplies so we receive, but what we receive we’re to supply to others. It’s the old “we are to be a thoroughfare not a cul de sac” analogy.
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.
(2Corinthians 1:6 ESV)
To be sure, Paul’s talking specifically about being afflicted for the gospel. Troubled, pressed hard upon, in distress for the sake of Christ. Sharing “abundantly in Christ’s sufferings” (1:5). But you gotta think there’s application for any season of suffering, especially one that encompasses the world around us. Not that all are suffering in the same way to the same degree, but all are feeling the pressure, to whatever degree, for the same reason at the same time. And so, to engage in this comfort dynamic, to seek comfort and then to comfort others, would seem to be a reasonable application for our current days.
And what seeds the dynamic? What sources it? What primes the pump of taking in the comfort of God so that we might comfort others? I think a clue is found in verse 9.
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
(2Corinthians 1:8-9 ESV)
Paul’s desperate situation forced him to rely on God. His resources were tapped out, his tank was empty. Thus, he had nowhere to look but up — and look way up — to the God who raises the dead. Not a bad place to focus when you’re feeling like you’ve “received the sentence of death.”
When our confidence shifts from our own resources and our own reserves to God’s promises and to His power, there’s comfort. Comfort sufficient for our struggles with some left over to pass on to others.
And as I chew some more on this comfort dynamic, I’m curious as to the original word behind the ten-time repeated English word, comfort. Paraklesis. Calling to one’s side. A summoning for help. Thus finding a consolation, a solace, a comfort.
But seeing paraklesis, I’m reminded of the Parakletos. And now, we’re talking a dynamic! And now I’m pulling out my old King James Version.
And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; . . . the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
(John 14:16, 26 KJV)
In the ESV He’s “the Helper.” But this morning, I’m ok reading it as “the Comforter.” The comfort with which I’m comforted is by the Comforter. The parklesis, with which I’m parakleo, is by God, the Parakletos. That’s the dynamic! That’s the living, powerful, able to raise the dead dynamic found in me and operative through me.
That’s why I can experience the comfort of God. That’s how I can pass on the comfort of God.
Not relying on my ability to gut it out and make it better, but with my confidence solely in the One who lives in me, the Comforter — God, the Holy Spirit.
Talk about abundant, overflowing, sufficient for the day grace.
To God be the glory.