“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 receive from God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
The Apostle Paul describes the Lord as “the God of all comfort.” Paul experienced more than his fair share of trouble (see 2 Corinthians 11:22-33), so he knew something about comfort.
When my comfortable state is disrupted by suffering, the first thing I want is immediate return to my comfortable state. I long for the relative ease of my previous condition. However a comfortable situation of feeling chilled out or kicked back on the beach is not the comfort that Paul is referring to.
“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.” – D. E. Garland
When Sue was diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago, we experienced the fear and dread that everyone feels when given that news. Of course, we prayed and prayed that God would heal Sue and save her from our trouble. But equally important, we sought God’s comfort in our trouble.
God offers his comfort in two forms. He gives one level of comfort directly, and another from his qualified comfort agents. You and me.
How are his comforters qualified? Through experiencing trouble AND comfort. That’s why, in addition to calling on God directly, we called on our friends who lead the Cancer Care Ministry at Cottonwood Creek Church. They’ve been qualified by God—through cancer and comfort—to comfort others. As a result, they have been a great comfort to us during these past months.
So, through our trouble and God’s comfort, we are now qualified comforters to “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive(d) from God.”
This is one of the great lessons for our children and grandchildren. God is qualifying us to be his comfort agents through our troubles and the comfort he provides, both directly (by calling and depending on him) and through his qualified comforters. Once we’re qualified, God expects to put our qualification into practice, by comforting others in their trouble.