Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
All of us need comfort. We all suffer, so we all need the peace which only God can provide (Philippians 4:7). Life breaks hearts so often. We all have family problems, health concerns, spiritual weakness, emotional trials, and problems at work. We all have had death take those whom we love away from us. Friends disappoint, discourage, or even betray us at times. We need comfort.
God can comfort us, friends. The hardships of life can beat us down; during those times we need encouragement the most. That’s why encouragement is one of the major themes of the Bible. Peter told Christians to not be surprised when fiery trials come, but rather rejoice that they share in Christ’s sufferings (1 Peter 4:12-13). James also wrote that we should rejoice when hard times come (James 1:2-4).
It is strange to think that the worst times are the times when we should rejoice. Why should we try to find something positive in our burdens? Consider this, friends. Right after writing how God comforts us in 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:5). In other words, with hardships come opportunities to receive God’s comfort.
We may think we don’t need that and we can take care of ourselves, but we’re wrong. Jesus said that we can do nothing apart from Him (John 15:5). The apostles knew that the purpose behind them receiving trials even to the point of “the sentence of death” was “to make us rely not on ourselves but on God” (2 Corinthians 1:9). Trials and burdens have a way of knocking us to our knees and reminding us of our great need for comfort from God. The Bible calls such burdens “discipline” that “for the moment…seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7-11). Instead of running from God when sorrow and stress come into our lives, we need to draw closer to Him, “casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7), “draw(ing) near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Not only do we need God, but we need each other too. Christians were told that a reason God comforts them is so they can comfort others with the same comfort God gave to them (2 Corinthians 1:4). All of us who have gone through sorrow and pain know how comforting it is to have someone grip our shoulder or embrace us and tell us we’re not alone, that they and others have gone through the same or similar burden. Only those who have lost a child, parent, spouse, or close friend can better understand those who have lost the same. No one understands the agony of divorce like someone who has been divorced. Only someone suffering with cancer can understand others who deal with this awful disease. Going through trials enables us to identify with someone else who have had similar experiences. When people get together who have common experiences, they can encourage and comfort one another.
This is a reason why support groups are a welcome oasis for many. For example, Gordon County is now offering a grief support group for those who have lost loved ones by suicide. The holidays are painful when you deal with the loss of a loved one. If you’ve lost someone to suicide, you aren’t alone. This grief support group will meet at the Calhoun Church of Christ at 6:30 on Thursday, December 20. They can provide you with the resources to help survivors of suicide loss cope and work towards healing. If you’d like more information, call me at (706) 629-8459 and I’ll point you to someone who can help.
God is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” For that may we all be thankful and lean on Him.