There are two basic human needs we all have: forgiveness and comfort. Only God can completely meet both needs. We all sin (Romans 3:23), and so we all need God’s grace. We all suffer, and so we all need the peace only He can provide (Philippians 4:6-7).
We all need encouragement throughout our lives. We suffer due to family problems, health concerns, natural disasters, spiritual weakness, emotional trials, problems at work, and even difficulties in the church. This is nothing new, for there were problems in the church even during biblical times. At the church in Corinth, there was division, immorality, lawsuits between brethren, incorrect worship practices, abuse of miraculous gifts, lack of love for one another, and misunderstandings about the resurrection of the dead. This church, like every church of God’s people, was filled with people who hurt. That’s why God inspired Paul to give them lots of encouragement (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). They needed to grow stronger and remain stronger and more faithful. Encouragement would help with that.
There are people around you who hurt. We live in a broken, fallen world. No life is free from hardship (Job 5:7). Yet what we see in life is not determined by our own vantage point. Rather, it’s determined by how we view life. Sometimes the hardships of life beat us down. It is then that we need encouragement (2 Corinthians 1:5; John 16:33; 1 Peter 4:12-13).
Look at that last passage from Peter especially. Why rejoice when fiery trials come upon us? Because opportunities to receive God’s comfort come with these hardships. We think we can do it all ourselves. We think we’re invincible and self-reliant. We think that we don’t need God if we have enough stuff. We think we can educate ourselves enough so we can determine our own morality and be our own guide so we have no need of the Bible. We think we don’t need the church if we are busy with enough programs and activities. Yet God knows differently (John 15:5; 2 Corinthians 1:9).
Is finding comfort in hardship possible? Consider this. Hardship equips us to bring comfort to others. Think of how comforting it is when someone else who has been through the same or very similar situation puts their arm around you. God says they’re using the comfort He Himself gave them to comfort you (2 Corinthians 1:4). Until we have experienced pain, we cannot really sympathize with the hurting. The one who has lost a child, parent, sibling, or close friend better understands people who have lost the same. The cancer patient better understands other cancer patients. Going through tough times enables you to identify with those with similar experiences. This is why support groups are very popular. No one understands the agony of divorce like someone who has been divorced. No one understands the pain of having a loved one in prison like someone else with a loved one in prison. Encouragement and comfort happens when people with common experiences get together.
God is “the Father of compassion and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). There’s a difference between compassion and comfort. Compassion has more to do with understanding. Comfort relates with putting that understanding into action to help others. The Greek term for “comfort” in the New Testament means “to come alongside.” That’s what comforters do. They listen, encourage, and assist (James 2:15-16). They work to make the situation better. They take the initiative to visit, call, cook, or tap you on the shoulder and say, “I’ve been there. I’m here now.” (2 Corinthians 1:6-7)
It’s possible to find comfort during trials from others, the ones who’ve experienced same or similar sufferings. That’s why we can rejoice during trials, knowing that now we are better equipped to be God’s instrument to be a more comforting blessing to more people. We bring others to Him and grow closer to Him ourselves.
Hardships have a way of bringing us to our knees and reminding us that we need God’s comfort (Hebrews 12:7-11). So let’s run towards Him instead of away from Him (Hebrews 4:16; 1 Peter 5:7). It starts with being born again through penitent faith and baptism into His Son’s church (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 12:13; cf. Colossians 1:18). If you need comfort, and if you need God to save you, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.