Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all his holy people throughout Achaia: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:1-11 NIV)
As of today, there have been 19,919,559 confirmed cases of COVID-19. 732,284 people have died. In spite of these numbers I still do not know anyone who has had the virus. This means that while I know many people who are experiencing isolation and restricted movement, I do not know anyone who has experienced death or the loss of a loved one. Still, the losses are real and so are the physical, emotional, and relational suffering that most are experiencing. Paul tells us that we have something to offer to this situation. We have comfort from God that we can share with those who are suffering.
Comfort and suffering go together. Both are a part of the normal Christian life. To know Christ and become like Him we must experience suffering. Paul makes this connection in his letter to the Philippians.
I want to know Christ– yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11 NIV)
Most of us are supported by an abundance of relationships. When we do suffer, there are people who care and reach out to comfort us. At least, that is the way it is supposed to work. For Christians this is especially true as we receive our greatest comfort directly from God. As with most things we receive from God the comfort we receive is to be shared with others. The goal of all this suffering and comforting is the strengthening of our patient endurance.
I do not like to exercise. Even though my mind knows that the brief suffering of an exercise routine reduces the possibility of serious suffering from a fall or a heart attack, I find it difficult to keep doing it. What I know is that my solo walk seems to take forever while my walks with my wife go by quickly. If I want to walk faster on my solo walk all I must do is get a grandson to walk with me. The walk will go quickly, and I will walk faster as my grandson pulls me along. The presence of another is comforting in the form of encouragement.
Paul was experiencing extreme suffering and needed comfort to be able to endure. He did not have all the technology that we have available today. Maybe that was a good thing. Paul had no technology crutches to rely on. He learned that the only thing He could rely on was God and God’s power to resurrect the dead. There was one other form of comfort that Paul identifies. He is comforted by the prayers of God’s people in the churches he has planted. Often, we share a prayer with someone in need by writing out our prayer and sending it to them in email. This is a wonderful way to communicate comfort, but Paul wants his readers to know that they can comfort him in prayer even though far away. Paul is telling us that we can comfort others even when we do not have access to technology. Paul believes that prayer makes a difference. He believes that when people pray, God acts, and the people who are experiencing God’s action give God thanks. Paul believes that prayer makes a difference and that the prayer of many makes a bigger difference.
If you know someone who is suffering and needs comfort use all the technology available to you to reach out and encourage and comfort them. While you are doing this do not forget to pray for them. This will be a reminder to us and to them that ultimately comfort comes from God.