Suffering & Comfort

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.

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6 thoughts on “Suffering & Comfort

  1. Christy says:

    It’s all Paradox…a wonderfully satisfying Paradox. Satisfying because the truth of how it all works in His economy.

    Thanks for letting me in…

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  2. Thank you for sharing I love this line…..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.

    I believe that also!! I read just a bit about your daughter. I will be praying for her, for you and your entire family!! Be blessed in and because of HIM (Christ)!

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  3. Rebecca says:

    i’m so grateful to be sharing in this with you, Kathryn. Thank you for setting up this blog so we can all interact with one another on these very real subjects. I love what you said about Paul’s form of comfort, too, and what Christy said about the paradox, how true! I will say, however, that I don’t believe we suffer to have comfort, but rather, God in his mercy offers comfort for the shared suffering we have with Christ. It is to me, a picture of His sure provision–that he does not leave us in what He knows would be unendurable without an antidote for the pain. It reveals goodness and justice in His character, as far as we can understand it in human terms. It is not always the comfort we think we need. But that is part of seeing through the mirror darkly–and seeing everything in the context of His working out everything for His glory; but never in neglect or our human needs. The coexistence of all things working out for the good of those who love Him and the parallel truth of God being glorified, co-mingle, confuse yet somehow appease, when we eventually renew our trust in the God we know is good (though we sometimes don’t feel it) I know I need to meditate on specific things that reflect His goodness when times are dark; and I am trying to grow it into a daily habit. There are a lot of riches there when we stop and meditate on what is good. It can start with the simpleness of our sun being an unstable star, yet God gives us a stable existence under it’s care. We have day and night…etc. Meditation is a lost art, especially for us Presbyterians! :-) But there is a reason God calls us to both prayer and meditation. So glad we are all discussing this and not brushing it under the rug…love you, sisters!

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    • Which came first… the chicken or the egg? Or in this case, what came first? suffering or comfort :-). I’ll tell you what came first… Sin. Sin entering the world made it necessary for even the Son of God to have to suffer to learn obedience. I agree that suffering isn’t a prerequisite for comfort, but I believe the deeper the suffering, the deeper the comfort.

      But actually, sin wasn’t first… God was. And to rephrase what you wrote above… God is our provision in times of suffering. God himself is our comfort.

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      • Rebecca says:

        You know, this makes me think of a story I heard about some Christian German young people who went to England after World War II. They wanted to help repair statues, monuments, things damaged in the Blitzkrieg by their own people. I can’t remember if they said this when asked why they were doing it, or if they left it when the repaired a statue of Christ, but they said “We are His hands and feet”. I hope we, your sisters, can be His hands and feet in your life. I hope God will continually use us to bring you comfort and support. I also know that even on days that you feel all alone, and help feels far away, that God gives remarkable peace and stamina. God certainly does provide.
        On hearing about the death of our friend and brother, Kelvin Moore, it was one of the darkest moments in my life. I remember crying in bed. It felt like the darkness around me was going to consume me. I cried out to God for comfort. It wasn’t even a specific request. It was just crying for some knowledge that He was there and that He had our dear brother. And it was as though the room became flooded with sunlight and i was engulfed with the image of Kelvin’s smile. I know from that experience and others, that God can provide peace and comfort beyond our understanding. I pray that for you in the days ahead. We love you.

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