Today’s reading is from 2 Corinthians 3 – 5:
“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 affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
We as Christians are called into the suffering of the world, I don’t think to end it, or to solve it, but to simply be a comfort to the lost, as we were once lost.
I’ve always thought that the greatest impact we as Christians can have is in living this out. Louder than any non-profit effort, or fundraising, or writing, or preaching, or shouting, or arguing, or fighting, more loudly than any other act we can perform, simply suffering with and providing comfort for the broken, has always been to me the most powerful of expressions in our arsenal.
This series of verses hit me fairly hard, because it suggests that the way that we’ll know how to comfort others is by having been comforted ourselves in our affliction. Not only that but the affliction that we would have undergone is in Christ’s suffering. So in order to comfort others, we ourselves would need to have been comforted, and comforted in our sharing of Christ’s sufferings.
That’s a tough one. It would be a very difficult exercise for me to point out some suffering or affliction I’ve endured or am enduring that would qualify as “sharing abundantly in Christ’s suffering”. In fact there is little affliction in my life altogether. By that verse above then, I don’t have the experience of the comfort that I am to share with others.
What a barrier between the suffering and myself. Having not suffered, I don’t have any comfort to offer them. Any real comfort. I can offer them money, support, a kind word, a few hours of my time, but not true comfort. Not healing comfort.
While I’ve endured a fairly rough year last year and did receive comfort during it, I don’t know that I would call it “Christ’s suffering”, I can’t say that I was oppressed, reviled, shunned, mocked, or really any the ways typically associated with Christ’s suffering. How can I comfort a marginalized person when I myself am the majority?
I think the health and wealth teaching urges us to be as comfortable as we can, as wealthy as we can, and as happy as we can. If we accomplish those goals, do we lose the very power we would have to reach out to others? By barricading ourselves in comfort, do we shut off all access to the God of all comfort?
We must choose it seems. To tip one-way means to lose our ability to reach out, to tip the other means we lose our own comfort and happiness. I have chosen the former for my life thus far. What might it look like to live the latter?