Our Northview Social Media team regularly provides people with the opportunity to share their prayer requests confidentially with our prayer teams. This week the list was long! As I read through it, I was struck by how many Northview people are in need of comfort.
As I’ve been processing these requests, I’ve also been preparing to teach on 2 Corinthians 1:1-11, which identifies God as the “God of all comfort”. How timely! In this blog post, I thought I would share several verses from this section, and add some questions and comments to help us think through what they mean and how they apply to hurting people in our midst.
“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 in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthains 1:3-4)
What situations require God’s comfort?
As this section begins, Paul says that God comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those in any affliction. Later on in this paragraph, Paul will talk specifically about God comforting us when we suffer for the gospel, but he begins with a broader term. The Greek word θλῖψις (pronounced thlipsis), which is translated here as affliction refers to “troubling circumstances or events that bring about intense distress… or the inward emotion of anguish or deep distress itself, produced by harsh outward circumstances.*
Are you experiencing inner distress as a result of harsh outward circumstances? If so, Paul is saying that your situation requires God’s comfort.
What does God’s comfort look like?
One commentator explains it this way: “The comfort that Paul has in mind has nothing to do with a languorous feeling of contentment. It is not some tranquilizing dose of grace that only dulls pains but a stiffening agent that fortifies one in heart, mind, and soul. Comfort relates to encouragement, help, exhortation. God’s comfort strengthens weak knees and sustains sagging spirits so that one faces the troubles of life with unbending resolve and unending assurance.”*
Do you need to be fortified, strengthened and sustained? If so, it’s helpful to ask…
How does God comfort us?
I wondered how to answer this question, and so I looked up every text in the Bible which talks about God strengthening and comforting people. I found that he comforts us using three primary means:
His Presence. In Biblical stories, when people are afraid and under pressure, God reminds them that He is WITH them in the midst of whatever they are facing. If you want some examples, look up Genesis 15:1, 26:24, 28:15, Exodus 3:12, Psalm 73, Psalm 139, Matthew 28:20, Acts 9:31, Acts 18:9-11.
His Promises. When people are in distress in the Scriptures, they hold onto God’s promises. They are strengthened by being reminded that God promises to bring justice, to punish those who have committed wrongdoing, to establish people in righteousness, and ultimately to wipe away death and tears and make all things new! Psalm 119:49-56, 73-88; Isaiah 12:1-6, 51:1-16, Revelation 21:1-7.
His People. So many times throughout scripture, God comforts his people through other people. God strengthened Moses by sending Aaron (Exodus 4:14-17), he comforted Paul through Titus, and comforted Titus through the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 7:5-7). Timothy’s report that the Thessalonian church longed to see Paul, gave him comfort in the midst of distress and affliction (1 Thessalonians 3:6-10). As we work alongside other believers, we comfort and encourage each other (Colossians 4:7-11).
So, if you are in need of God’s comfort today, I would encourage you to seek His presence (through Bible reading, prayer or singing songs of worship), remember His promises (perhaps read some of the scripture passages above) and reach out to His people. Acknowledge what you are feeling to Christian friends or family members. Ask them to pray with you and to journey alongside you.
And then, as you are strengthened to face the troubles of life, use what you have learned to comfort others
“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 in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Kristal Toews Pastor of Discipleship
* Guthrie, G.H. (2015). 2 Corinthians. (R.W. Yarbrough & R. H. Stein, Eds.) (p. 69). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic * Garland, David E (1999). 2 Corinthians, The New American Commentary, Volume 29. (2 Cor 2:4)