Part of me feels silly writing about suffering – what do I really know about suffering? …But as I’ve been (lightly) studying suffering in the bible, I am flattened by the extent of suffering I find there – the pinnacle being the crucifixion of Christ. Isaiah calls him the “suffering Servant” for good reason.
I have so many thoughts about suffering, but for now… I’d like to focus on Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1. Paul was intimately familiar with suffering. And somehow he is able to link comfort to suffering in a most provocative way. He actually tells the people of Corinth that the way to experience comfort is to suffer. Seriously?
For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. …If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer (2 Corinthians 1:5-6).
What kind of comfort is Paul talking about here? Knowing a tiny bit about Paul’s character, I don’t think it’s a sweet, warm & fuzzy feeling, but rather comfort in the truth that suffering is not in vain. Paul points to sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Christ’s sufferings accomplished the ultimate good – salvation from sin and death. And God brings good from Paul’s sufferings too. Paul argues throughout 2 Corinthians that his sufferings help him bring comfort to others and serve as a means to make Christ known to the world. The world notices when a “suffering servant” remains faithful to Him. It is the way of the Kingdom of God… death brings life… and suffering combined with surrender …brings comfort.