(Part 1 of a series on God’s comfort in affliction)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, – 2 Corinthians 1:3 ESV
Paul begins this section of 2 Corinthians by pointing to and praising God. Paul often praises God, but in this case, he praises him specifically for being the God of “mercies” and “comfort.” This is our foundation for the entire passage (3-11).
Photo credit: info.alliancenet.org
When you think of mercy, what do you come up with? To me it’s something you do or say to or for someone in need that brings them relief. You lend your strength to a person who is weak. You hold them up when they cannot hold themselves. Here Paul uses the Greek word oiktirmos, meaning “to have compassion on.” It is not the usual word for “mercy” in the Greek, as it indicates a deep, reliable compassion toward suffering that we can depend upon receiving from God.
In other words, God is always there when you need Him. He is unswerving in His faithfulness to you. He is not simply standing from a distance observing that you are struggling; rather He sees and is affected in His heart by your difficulties. He is near and willing to intervene, whether that means sending you a person to help, changing your circumstances (but not always!), or most importantly helping you see how He has acted mercifully in the past.
Photo credit: thedrewpeterson.com
Paraklesis, the Greek word Paul uses for “comfort” here, conveys an active exhortation or encouragement. It is not simply telling someone, “everything will be okay,” but rather it is pointing them toward a specific, tangible area to find that comfort.
Paul connects comfort here with a later verse in 2 Corinthians where he speaks of “overflowing with joy” even in the midst of affliction. How is this possible? What does comfort from God look like?
1) A changed perspective on our afflictions.
Paul is able to have joy because he has in mind his salvation. Because he is resolute in accepting all things and circumstances for Christ’s sake. He also understands that what he goes through now will help other people in similar situations later. While that doesn’t change the fact that his suffering is very real and very hard, he has a spiritual perspective on his sufferings based on God’s nearness and person.
2) The ability to see truth clearly through the clouds of our feelings.
In context, Paul is focused on sufferings he endures in his ministry. But what he says here applies to all of our suffering. God is the God of all comfort and He comforts us in all affliction, not just some.
It would have been very easy for Paul to pity himself. He was only human after all and the strong feelings of his humanity could have overcome and paralyzed him. Who has not been there?! Instead, he looks to the nature of God, to who He is and how He has worked. We can look to what we know about God and what He tells us about Himself in His Word. We can believe it.
Are you in the midst of struggles that have you thinking, “I cannot take much more!!”? It can be hard to pray or read in the midst of that. I have often been unable to pray anything more than, “God have mercy on me. Help me.” Sometimes I can only pray silently. Be assured, He hears you. And He is working in your storm.