2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
Nobody likes pain. In fact, we take great measures to avoid pain, and when our measures fail, we may look for someone to blame. Pain interferes with the course we’ve set for our lives. Reversal of fortune, the onset of illness, unexpected grief, or disappointment in a relationship—these may seem unfair, as if life has taken a wrong turn, and we must find a way to get things back on track.
The vision of a painless life, however, is not biblical. Jesus tells his disciples that suffering is a natural and inevitable part of living in this world. Moreover, even though suffering is unpleasant, it does offer us two important gifts: It strengthens us to endure the troubles of this world, and it qualifies us to comfort others who are also suffering.
The “comfort” Paul talks about in the above passage is not relief from pain but companionship in the midst of pain. “Comfort” in the original language is paraklesis, which means “a calling to one’s side.” Our loving God comforts us by entering into our pain with us so we do not suffer alone. Unlike aspirin, which temporarily masks our pain, God reassures us of love and hope even as we continue to experience our pain. Quietly, through the grace of the Spirit, we can know peace in the midst of suffering while our character and faith are being strengthened.
As we receive comfort from God, Paul continues, we are to notice others in pain and give them comfort in like manner. In the particular case where others have wronged us and suffer guilt over it, we can love and forgive them, not to take away their guilt but to offer companionship as one who knows what it is like to stand in guilty shoes and suffer remorse. We can forgive because we have experienced the gift of God’s companionship in our own pain and guilt, qualifying us to enter into another sinner’s pain and offer comfort.
FATHER, when pain in my life is unavoidable, help me to find comfort in your love and companionship. Give me grace and wisdom to turn my suffering to good use, refining me and equipping me to help others who are suffering. Help me to offer forgiveness that comforts in place of condemnation, which only adds to another’s pain.
John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 2:7
In what ways does forgiveness offer loving companionship?