You will suffer afflictions sometime in life.
They come in all varieties, forms; shapes and sizes. Can you find comfort during those afflictions? I think so.
Paul wrote 2 Corinthians when the Corinthian members were afflicted. False teachers had infested the congregation. They were faced with some hard decisions, which were sure to upset close relationships. Paul was suffering afflictions, too, (although he doesn’t name them). Yet, he comes to a conclusion: Two sufferers can do more together than apart.
Remember, you are not alone. Paul and faithful Timothy send a prayer-wish filled with “grace” and “peace,” a welcomed prayer in their context of strife and conflict. It was carefully tailored to show the Corinthians they are not alone in their struggles. They have both an earthly host and a heavenly one pushing them from behind. Perhaps you think you are alone in your battle. You aren’t. You have the God and His righteous saints supporting you in your journey.
Reach out to others. Paul, suffering himself, speaks, “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” (2 Cor 1:3-4a).
We “get” comfort so that we might “give” comfort to others. Comfort is not a reprieve from the pain, but a resoluteness in it. God never promises to remove afflictions, but He can bring comfort in them.
My wife was widowed in her early 20s. Her husband perished in a car accident. God comforted her by sending Christians to her with acts of kindness and companionship.
That comfort helped her through her weighty grief. To this day, when she hears of someone recently widowed, she writes her a note of encouragement. She received comfort and she passes it on to others.
Re-look at your affliction. Paul says one purpose for affliction is to crucify self-reliance: “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God Who raises the dead” (2 Cor 1:9).
We come forth from the womb relying on our own powers. God sometimes sends sufferings into our lives to purge us of our self-reliant attitudes. Re-examine your self-reliance. Don’t hesitate to call upon God’s people to help with prayers and goodwill.
Reflect on our own conscience. Sometimes, during intense affliction, we let down our guard. Paul points them to righteous living, which keeps a conscience clean: “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience” (1 Cor 1:12-14). Keep acting with the highest integrity in all matters.
Paul was suffering from affliction; so were the Corinthians. What was his response? To join forces in one another’s afflictions and to reap from one another’s comforts. Think of someone you know who is struggling. Join forces with them. Two strugglers together can accomplish more than one, alone.
Dr. Chipley McQueen Thornton is lead pastor at First Baptist Church of Springville.