August 27, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 1)

Submitted by Lauren K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

  • Reflect on the fact that God is described as the “Father of mercies” and the “God of all comfort.”  

It struck me afresh this time that God is described as the “Father of mercies.” When I was younger I thought of God as the Creator, as Lord, as someone mighty in strength, wise, powerful, loving, as Jesus who died on the cross for my sins, and God is all these things. But more recently, I’ve been thinking about God as someone with whom I have a very personal and unchangeable relationship with. It’s this relationship of God as my Father and I am his child that has become an anchor for me. Last week Pastor Ed gave the Sunday service message on Luke 15, the prodigal son. As Jesus told this story to his listeners, the point that Jesus wanted to make clear was that this father is a picture of what God is like, and the prodigal son is the picture of humanity apart from God. The prodigal son is who we are all the time and the waiting father shows us the heart of God. It hits me in a fresh way that, of course, God who is merciful is a Father. As my heavenly Father, he knows me, my every thought, every feeling. He is able to understand and anticipate how I feel even when I don’t know how to describe what’s going on inside of me. He knows all my hidden secrets, my sinful and rebellious heart, the depth of who I am. And as my Father, his mercy towards me is perfect, perfect for all my needs. “Father of mercies” tells me that God is my Father and he knows me better than anyone else, even better than I know myself. And in this relationship that can never be severed, how He feels about me and towards me is mercy. I am a prodigal many times each day. My heart can cool towards God and be enticed by comfort, some interesting distraction, the good feeling of a compliment or praise. There have also been times when I felt that I had sinned so badly that I could not be received by anyone, and I become a wanderer in the far country. But it is in this relationship of Father and child, God, the Father of mercies, draws me back and gives me many opportunities to repent and return to him. Through the years I’ve experienced that the mercy God has for me isn’t contingent on my performance, on fixing myself up, on how much I serve, or even on repenting adequately or properly. These things I can never do and are forever frustrating and isolating. Mercy by definition cannot be earned. God’s mercy towards me is relational, He is my Father, I am His child. God has already demonstrated his love and mercy towards me on the cross of Christ. This fact of history and relationship can never be changed. As I get older, sin more, make lots of mistakes, know myself more, this fact of God as the Father of mercies never seizes to amaze, strengthen and draw me to God.

God is also the “God of all comfort.”  In any and every situation God is able to comfort us and He is our comfort. Whenever I go through some difficult times, often what I wanted was relief, for the difficulty to end, and for my situation to be changed. Realistically that never happened. Real life is full of difficulties and pain, and to live for the gospel is to invite additional hardship and a life of suffering. V. 4 says that God comforts us in all our affliction, not by removing the afflictions. It is in the midst of real life, of afflictions, hardships that I cannot bear alone, the burdens of the consequences of my own sins or other peoples’ sins that God shows me He is my comfort. As I try to love people, there are many challenging situations I don’t know what to do. I encounter peoples’ brokenness and feel broken-hearted and helpless. Sometimes just the weight of my own sins causes me to feel weak and so needy. When I stop asking for difficulties to end and turn to God in weakness and need, I experience God as God of all comfort. God’s word meets me in my need, and God’s people encourages me. He strengthens me, affirms his grace and love for me, reminds me that He is actively at work in my life and peoples’ lives around me, and gives me hope to persevere. There’s a strength that is not mine, giving me peace and rest, assuring me God is in control, and teaching me to draw deeper from the God of all comfort to supply all that I need.

  • What mission does v. 4 give every Christian? 

As a Christian I am given the mission to comfort those in any affliction with the comfort I have received and experienced personally from God. The comfort I have received from God enables me to comfort others and bring them to find comfort in God.

  • What is the relationship between suffering/affliction and comfort, and being able to give comfort to others?

The relationship between suffering/affliction and comfort is that to the extent I share in Christ’s suffering and patiently endure by turning to God in times of affliction, I experience God’s comfort supplying all my needs and strengthening me. And I become able to sympathize with others who go through similar sufferings and struggles. One example of this is my own struggle with the sin of seeking human approval by what I can do or contribute and always feeling proud when I do well and insecure when I make mistakes. As an older sister to many younger ones, I can sympathize with this trap and the misery it brings. I can anticipate how they feel in certain situations, what lies of Satan they are fooled into believing, and I can help shed light on God’s word that can help them to patiently endure and experience God’s comfort. In our church there are many older people who have had rough backgrounds, broken families, hardships and pain that span the range of experiences. As they found comfort and strength in God, they are uniquely able to sympathize and give comfort to others going through similar situations. Sometimes it’s an area of deep shame from the past, yet God is able to redeem it and use our brokenness to bless and bring comfort to others.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11

  • Reflect on the picture of the lives of Apostle Paul and his companions, painted by the words “affliction,” “utterly burdened” and “despair.”  How much can I relate to this? 

Apostle Paul’s life did not have to be this way. But as a result of the grace of God and his commitment to live for the gospel, he and his companions live lives of “affliction,” “utterly burdened beyond our strength,” and “despaired of life itself.”  Paul gives more details of his life in chapter 11 where he says, “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea…I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” Apostle Paul’s life is the only one that makes sense in the context of the gospel. The world teaches us to seek gain and our own comfort. Even in some Christian circles, pain, affliction, burden, and despair are seen as incompatible with Christian life. But Apostle Paul’s and his companions’ lives resemble that of our Lord Jesus. Even as I try to follow in their example, my life is far from the suffering that Paul talks about. This past week our church worked hard to welcome and reach out to the incoming new students on our campus with the gospel. There were many late nights, many people spent countless hours planning and helping out at these welcome events. As I tried to work hard, I cannot say that I loved people and served God to the point of being utterly burdened and in despair of life. There have been times when I struggled with some deeply engrained sin or prayed and anguished over someone who was headed down a path of sin, but even then the degree was far less than what Paul describes of his life. However, these experiences have shown me the depth of God’s heart and the kind of life of suffering that God is calling me to live as a Christian, as his child, as a minister of the gospel. I pray that I can grow to embrace this picture of life for myself that resembles the lives of Apostle Paul and his companions, lives lived for the gospel.

  • What is my attitude towards suffering?  What is the biblical response to suffering?

For a long time my attitude towards suffering was to avoid it, and if suffering was unavoidable I waited for it over be over. Sometimes I drew an arbitrary line at where I felt was enough suffering and anything beyond it was too much. In this mindset, I responded to suffering by complaining, whining, being demanding and entitled. I tried with my own effort to control situations and people to minimize any suffering to myself. I worked hard and strove to overcome difficulties and when I could not, I became resentful and embittered. I missed many opportunities to experience God and mature as a Christian. The biblical respond to suffering is to not rely on ourselves but on God. My natural self is proud and wants to be self-reliant. Unless there is suffering in my life, I don’t naturally rely on God. Suffering drives prideful sinners like me to actually rely on God, dig deeper into God’s word, pray and cry out to God for help and perspective. When I avoided suffering and sought illegitimate relief in complaining, my faith did not grow. Apostle Paul says that God “delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” This has been my experience as well, that when I stopped striving on my own, humbled myself and turned to God, God became my refuge in suffering. Somehow God supplied the strength or self-control and patience I did not have. God gave me words of encouragement, eternal perspective in painful times and my faith in Him was able to grow. Apostle Paul’s confidence in God’s ability to deliver was born out of many trials and suffering, as he trusted God, endured, and experienced supernatural deliverance. And so he is able to take on more suffering for the sake of the gospel. He has such confidence in who God is, God’s faithfulness, trustworthiness, love and power to save.

Personal Prayer 

Dear Lord, thank you that You are the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. Thank you for claiming my life in Christ and showering me with mercy for all my sins and shortcomings. I pray that I will not turn away in pride and rely on myself for righteousness, but always return to my Father of mercies for all my needs. There are so many ways that this world seeks comfort in things that cannot give lasting comfort. Thank you Lord that you are the God of all comfort and you comfort strengthens and holds me up. As I experience your comfort in my life, I commit again to being an agent of your comfort to others. Please help me to embrace the concerns of your heart for this lost world and welcome any suffering that it may bring. Please help me daily to avoid shielding my heart, but to give my heart and labor fully for your work, relying on your strength at work in me. Thank you for supplying all my needs and giving me such a high and lofty vision for my life.

Submitted by Peter C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

  • Reflect on the fact that God is described as the “Father of mercies” and the “God of all comfort.”
  • What mission does v. 4 give every Christian?
  • What is the relationship between suffering/affliction and comfort, and being able to give comfort to others?

On the surface, it can seem like God is a soothing God who is there saying “there, there…” to the boo boos of my soul, merely interested in making me feel better about life, about my circumstances, and about myself. The mission given to every Christian in v.4 would then be mostly about helping people have positive thoughts–about their self-image, their job, their major, family background…about being artificially cheerful and putting a positive spin on any negative episode of life. Such a simplistic approach to life is offensive, especially in light of the real suffering that people go through every day, or the real suffering that people inflict on others. These are not just negative episodes–as if their life is some TV sitcom. There are addictions involved, broken families, violence, depression, and death.  How would I be able to put any positive spin on something like losing a family member or close friend to some disease, freak accident, or violent act? How could I gloss over the wrongs of that violent act? The loss is real. The tragedy is just as profound.

As strong as my reaction is to the tragedies of life, I have to remember that God’s reaction is often much more intense than my own. If that is the case, then God’s response to the tragedy and loss that I face is also much more intense. His outrage to wrong and injustice is just as intense. He most certainly would not say flippantly “cheer up and move on.”  And it makes sense. Aside from the obvious response to things like murder and stealing, if God has intimate knowledge of my life in its full detail, has such an intense longing for me to draw near to him, for my life to be cut short by disease would be tragic. When he sees me drawn by some temptation or to something that is obviously illusory or destructive instead of himself, the real source of joy and peace, the anguish God must go through is unimaginable. Often I feel frustrated or cynical after my efforts to minister to someone are rejected–this feeling of frustration is nothing compared to what God must go through when he ministers to me, only to be flat-out rejected for a poor imitation. God’s suffering is real, just as sin and its effects are real.

…so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”   That is the mission that is given to every Christian in v.4

The thing about suffering is that I receive comfort from those who have gone through or are going through the same suffering. They don’t have to say a single word. In a small way I was able to experience this when I felt tired helping out at some of the welcome week activities last week. Knowing that there were others working just as hard or even harder helped me endure the fatigue, as well as the aches I felt in muscles I didn’t know even existed. So the word “comfort” might mean less about soothing someone than it is about strengthening, fortifying by having gone through suffering together.

Christ’s suffering on the cross is the source of all comfort. No matter what difficulty I may go through, God not only feels the same frustration that I do, he has done something about it. Sin is the enemy, the source of all suffering. And God’s solution to sin is the cross. The cross speaks of God’s suffering. The suffering of rejection by friends, the suffering of separation, the suffering of pain, the suffering of people’s mocking, the suffering of shame, the suffering of seeing loved ones helpless to rescue… all manner of suffering that resulted from sin. Christ suffered on the cross because of sin, and that is a tremendous comfort to anyone who suffers, because suffering comes from sin.

So as I minister to others, it is crucial that I live out what the cross means. It is incarnational. I need to be as deeply involved in someone’s life as to take on the suffering that they are going through with them. To cry in anguish for those who are struggling with some sin, to feel the frustration that they feel because of a lack of change, to pray for breakthrough with as much earnestness as the person might pray for himself. Also it means that I need not be insecure when I do not have a similar background as them. I might not have first-hand knowledge, but I do know that the cross is the true source of all comfort for all people. I can be confident that I can point them to the cross and that they can receive the same kind of comfort that I myself received.

Submitted by Alison N. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

  • Reflect on the fact that God is described as the “Father of mercies” and the “God of all comfort.”  

It is amazing that God is described as the “Father of mercies” rather than the Judge or the one who keeps score.  I know my natural tendency is to be petty and to keep score of this mistake or that offense, and this was how I viewed God before I was a Christian, as one who I had to make sure to follow every rule.  Yet, this is not an accurate description of who God is as evidenced by this verse.  As the Father of mercies, he teaches me what it means to have mercy through his ultimate example of giving his son, Jesus, to save me from my sins.  When I meditate on this fact, I realize how hard it is for me to show mercy on my own.  I would not even try to show mercy if I did not receive the example from God.  Life would be so difficult and tragic as I face my own lack as well as see others.  How much more amazing it is that a just God would grant mercy!  And I remember how I was blown away when I first received God’s grace forgiving me from all the wrongs I had done and ways I had tried to assert control of my life.  The unbelievable but preciousness of confessing I needed God as my Lord and Savior.  I remember how amazing his mercy was, and how I wanted to claim it for every sin, every wrong, every area of my life and that’s the same mercy that I experience now as I get older and still see my need for God’s mercy.  When I am proud, self-focused, easily angered, frustrated, impatient, and just lacking in so many ways, God’s mercy manifests in in allowing me to confess and receive his forgiveness, in providing me with strength and as life gets busier I experience God’s mercy in a deeper way through his forgiveness and concretely through the forgiveness of all the people around me when I have hurt them, insisted on my own way, and been so difficult.  This is another reminder of God’s mercies when I think about the relationships I have, which could not exist with without our common commitment to God and the gospel.  I see also that I need to be less frustrated or petty, and more gracious to others in the way that I have received God’s mercy.

I also experience God as “God of all comfort” who has been the constant through all of the ups and downs I’ve experienced in life.  I can remember when I needed healing in my relationship with someone very close to me, when my own sins hurt others in deep ways, when close relatives passed away especially in difficult and sudden experiences, when people I was ministering to were having a difficult time because of situations beyond their control, when I felt helpless about the kind of situation I was in a couple of years ago.  In all of these situations with time passing, I came to see that God is truly the God of all comfort.  Every type of pain unexpected or deeply rooted, that God provided comfort to me.  This came through His Words in the Bible as they became alive and I remember praying through many verses as well as singing hymns or listening to songs that really touched my heart and soul.  There were times when I had a sister spent time with me or called me when I was feeling very down and discouraged.  God placed the church community in my life and through many caring sisters and brothers in Christ from leaders and mentors to those younger in the faith who could pray, comfort, and encourage me, as well as my family. I am amazed that God, as the Creator and head of the universe could consider me to be so precious that he would notice my needs and provide comfort to me.  Most recently it has been through all the ups and downs of my daughter’s health condition as starting about a year ago the doctor’s noticed that she was developmentally behind and this led to many specialty doctor visits and various tests.  Many times I had to pray to God and others prayed for us knowing the kind of comfort we needed to just entrust our daughter to God.  From all the visits, to the ear tube surgery, to concentrating on helping her develop, God placed people to comfort and share the burden right along side of us.  He knows that there are times when my heart is aching and there is pain, especially when we lost a very close relative.  He provided comfort for us concretely through our leaders and mentors from the very beginning of this difficult news and every step along the way of grieving and planning, as well as taking time to heal.  As I reflect on the times of pain and the times of comfort that God provides, it strengthened my faith that God truly knows my heart and emotions so thoroughly, much more than I do.  And in this way he can comfort me and place His people in my life to comfort me, but also so that out of these times, I can also be a channel of love for others.  I’ve experienced this as I minister to others and am able to share how God brought comfort and healing to my life through different experiences.  It wasn’t through anything I did, but just continuing to cling to God and the people he provided to me.  It is amazing that God comforts us in ALL of our affliction to the point where my faith, my hope, and my assurance that God is in control and rightfully deserves to direct my mind, heart, and soul is reaffirmed and I feel all the more stronger to face life with confidence in God.  I also see this to be true as I hear stories from those who are serving faithfully oversees and through all of the difficult ups and downs that they experience, there is a deeper experience ultimately of God’s provision and comfort.

  • What mission does v. 4 give every Christian? 

Every Christian is given the mission to comfort those who are in any affliction, as we have received comforts in all of our affliction

  • What is the relationship between suffering/affliction and comfort, and being able to give comfort to others?

The relationship between suffering/affliction and comfort is that the more I suffer or am afflicted, this means that if I have opened my heart to God’s comfort, I will have received so much more.  And out of this comfort I’ve experienced from the sufferings/afflictions, I will be able to give comfort to others.  I will be able to pass on what I have received, so that the experience of sufferings and afflictions will be redeemed.  This will allow me to be a source of blessing to others, and the things that have been so painful to go through can be used to comfort others.  God uses those experiences, whether because of my sin and self-inflicted, or because of the pains that happen in life of broken relationships, loss, and difficulties, and thus they are not wasted or without some benefit.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11

  • Reflect on the picture of the lives of Apostle Paul and his companions, painted by the words “affliction,” “utterly burdened” and “despair.”  How much can I relate to this? 

The picture of the life of Apostle Paul and his companions was filled as mentioned in 2 Cor 4:8 : We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

And 2 Corinthians 11:24-29, where Apostle Paul went through so many sufferings and yet he was not crushed. The words painted by “affliction,” “utterly burdened,” and “despair” illustrate a person that is in turmoil, difficulty, excruciating pain to the point of being disabling and almost completely crushing.  I can’t relate to this much because I realize that I’ve often avoided this difficulty by setting limits in my mind or in my heart what I’m willing to do.  I’ve experienced this only in small ways, when I die to my own comfort or preference and stay up late planning or shopping for food or cooking or counseling or pushing aside things I would normally want to do immediately.  I know then that I can suffer more, that I shouldn’t complain when I suffer in small ways like having a packed schedule or lacking in sleep. Especially when I compare to those serving the Lord in difficult and challenging situations and places, I really have nothing to say and know I need to invite suffering more into my life through letting go of my schedule, my preferences, and adopting the attitude of a restaurant owner, willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill the mission.  And in this case, it is so much more nobler than any restaurant or establishment.  One way I can embrace suffering is to not complain or be frustrated at changes or inconveniences, but to accept and adjust to them.

  • What is my attitude towards suffering?  What is the biblical response to suffering?

My attitude towards suffering has changed, as I used to want to avoid it at all cost. I thought if I spent enough energy avoiding suffering that I would actually avoid it and be comfortable.  Now, my perspective is different in that I think that I know that I am going to face suffering and this is just part of life.  I am living in a bubble if I think that I can avoid suffering because it simply isn’t possible.  And I realize that especially as a Christian and as a minister and as I invite people into my life.  I see more and more how we are all broken in different ways, needing healing and as we live life we will face more and more suffering.  The biblical response is to see that there is suffering (like the sentence of death) cling to God, who delivered us and will deliver us again.  Based on this verse, it is so that we will rely not on ourselves, but on God.  I am reminded of how he even raises the dead, including the resurrection of Jesus.  As he delivered me from certain death, this gives me the confidence and hope to know he will continue to deliver me.  And through interceding in prayer along with other sisters and brothers, I can cling to God through suffering with hope and perseverance.  I see the examples of people older than me, willing to suffer and having gone through much suffering, and this gives me greater confidence to face suffering that I will encounter in the future.

Personal Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, I am so undeserving of your grace, but thank you that you are the “Father of mercies” who demonstrates the ultimate mercy on the cross for me.  Please help me to never get over this, to never forget, and to let your grace was afresh over me each day.  Please give me the heart to be more gracious to others.  I praise you also that you are the “God of all comforts” who has comforted me in every difficulty, both self-inflicted and received by others.  I have personally experienced this to be true through all the ups and downs of life.  Please help me to share that same comfort I have received from you with others who need your healing and comfort.  I also pray that my heart will cling to you in prayer and just a greater reliance on you, so that even in suffering, I can experience hope and perseverance in you and not myself.


Submitted by Conrad C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church 

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

·      Reflect on the fact that God is described as the “Father of mercies” and the “God of all comfort.”  

Often, when speaking to someone who has trouble believing in the existence of God, the topic invariably lands on the problem of pain.  If God is good, why do bad things happen?  Why is their suffering?  As complex as the issue of suffering is, as a follower of Christ, I can have great confidence that God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort through today’s passage.  I think about how suffering can be comforted.  Of course, being relieved of it is one way, if the suffering is physical.  But what if the suffering has immutable factors, like you lost someone dear to you, or there’s just a situation out of your control.  How does one get comforted when there is nothing that can be done to bring relief?  I imagine if I were in this kind of position, the most important thing would be to know that someone cares.  The mere presence of a friend is a powerful response to suffering.  Knowing that someone is empathetic and praying is perhaps the best thing for the one in suffering.  Apostle Paul says that this is our God.  That in our human predicament, that though we might not know all the reasons why we suffer the way we do, above it all, is God who is mercifully caring over us and that is the divine comfort He offers us.  There is terror too great or darkness to deep that God cannot be our comfort.  Merciful compassion that is part of His character is our assurance that I am not alone; and His divine care is over me.

 ·      What mission does v. 4 give every Christian? 

If God is full of mercy and comfort, then as Christians, we are called to be reflective of His very nature.  Apostle Paul says that as we have been comforted by God, we too have the mission to be comforters, likewise to those who are suffering.  From the relief Christians have provided in times of famine to the local church for those looking for hope, I’m thankful that our mission come not from fleeting feelings of generosity or good will, but rather comes straight from the heart of God.

·      What is the relationship between suffering/affliction and comfort, and being able to give comfort to others?

It is no mystery that there is a powerful counsel from those who have first hand experience in suffering.  For Apostle Paul, one of the redeeming things about his suffering, is that it can be used as an encouragement and comfort for the church at large.  Jesus himself would bear suffering and identify himself with sinners for the purpose of lifting us all up with him in glory.  That is the DNA of suffering and comfort.  Those who suffer become powerful channels of empathy, deep concerns and lasting compassion because we have experienced the power of God’s comfort.  I think experientially that has been true in my life, that having experienced comfort in my own times of suffering, I realize that there’s really no pit too deep that I cannot be lifted by God.  And in that way, I’m empowered to love another by caring for them knowing that God encourages and comforts me.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11

·      Reflect on the picture of the lives of Apostle Paul and his companions, painted by the words “affliction,” “utterly burdened” and “despair.”  How much can I relate to this?

In all honesty, these words describe someone in anguish both physically and relationally.  I probably experience a fraction of what Apostle Paul did when helping a younger brother overcome sin or to be burdened by another’s need.  These are very challenging words, especially knowing it comes from Apostle Paul.  For me, I know it’s not necessarily the all-nighter working hard, or having released my grip over time and money.  These are small sufferings in their own way, but I know a little about what Apostle Paul means when he’s referencing these powerful descriptors; and that is the fight and struggle over sin with people and the persecution that comes from dealing with it.  Nothing comes close to such words unless it’s eternal stakes involved, and there is the pressure and burden to turn a brother from sin; and often putting it all on the line.  Apostle Paul burned when one was led into sin; his daily concern for all the churches purity in Christ was his anxiety. Persecution for your faith, especially from those close, carries an additional affliction.

·       What is my attitude towards suffering?  What is the biblical response to suffering?

When I consider my own suffering, Apostle Paul’s heart is the spiritual benchmark.  It is one whose measure is not ascetic, but rather of deep love.  It’s not seeking suffering of the sake of suffering, but a biblical response of love.  Out of love, you are taken to all kinds of suffering.  Suffering is the norm for the believer not because affliction itself purifies us, but rather, when we follow love in our broken world, we will also find suffering.  Christ himself would bear that example for me; with Apostle Paul also following suit.  For me, suffering often feels extra.  Kindness can be exercised without having to undergo suffering.  But then there’s real love; and I know there’s a keen difference; because kindness doesn’t lead you to suffering, only love does.  And as I think about people in my life, and the ministry that God has called me to, I have a choice to either be distant in kindness or to be loving, where the latter can lead to suffering.

Submitted by Jeanie O. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 1:1-11 

The word comfort is mentioned10 times in just these 11 verses. Not only through the frequent occurrence of this word but also the way it is used (e.g. the God of all comfort, etc.) makes it clear that comfort is a key theme of today’s text. When I think about the word “comfort,” I think of a plush Lazyboy chair, sitting back on a breezy afternoon, my little niece sleeping quietly near me, reading a book, sipping on some mint lemonade with a little bit of seltzer water, my stomach full, no worries, and drifting in and out of sleep whenever I feel like it. This rosy picture of comfort amounts to luxurious, creaturely pleasure without a thought or care in the world for anyone else. The world’s conception of comfort seems so innocent. I am not hurting anyone with my idea of comfort. I am not committing murder or theft or vandalism or some other crime of angst or passion. I am merely enjoying some simple creaturely pleasures and disconnecting myself from stress. Yet this picture of comfort does not care that someone might be so depressed next door that they are ready to take their life. This picture of comfort doesn’t care that someone is saying “I thirst…“ deep down in her heart in front of a glaring screen, wanting to be loved, to be known, and to matter. This picture of comfort is uninvolved, cold, disinterested in her neighbor. And yet we long for this picture of comfort. We long to be uninvolved with the mess of others. We long to be disconnected and unaffected by all that loneliness, lostnesss, and all those who are harassed and helpless, “like sheep without a shepherd.”

We think comfort means the absence of labor, pain, stress, fatigue, or a care in the world. The true origin of the word “comfort” comes from the Latin word conforto and far from our notions of it being a word that means the absence of something, it means “to give strength” or “to strengthen greatly.” Broken down, the word con means “together” and the forto means “strong.” Together strong. It is a beautiful understanding of the word as Apostle Paul calls God “the God of all comfort” the God who greatly strengthens us. “Together strong”–so he entreats the Corinth church to share in his suffering “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” So comfort does not mean the cessation or absence of labor or worries, it means to greatly strengthen those around us with the strength we received from God, the God who strengthens all of us with his mercies that are new every morning.

This past welcome week felt like a whirlwind and a marathon combined. As I saw these faces looking at me with smiles and thanking me for the good food, I knew we were bringing joy into their world, that barriers were coming down. How did this happen? We were working around the clock lifting things, shopping, cooking, planning, running, and serving people’s needs. One of the brothers and his crew of supplies loaders and gatherers worked hours on end without rest and at one point they were delirious hiding behind the supplies and then popping out in front of a camera shouting “Supplies!” (because “supplies” sounds like “surprise” get it?) They gave strength to many of us and we in turn gave strength to the new faces on campus. Where did we receive the strength to do this? We all have the same source: the God of all comfort, the Father of mercies who forgave us, he “greatly strengthened” us to do this good work.  I rejoice that this week was an example of how, as a church, we were together strong.

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