Expect Comfort When You Suffer
6th Sunday after the Epiphany
Expect Comfort When You Suffer
Text: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
I’ve seen my share of tears in the last few months. I’d like to say I’ve seen enough to last me a lifetime, but I know the many tears I’ve seen are just a few drops compared to the rainstorms of tears to follow.
I’ve seen tears of sadness over the sudden death of a loved one. I’ve seen tears of anger and frustration shared by husband and wife. I’ve seen tears of fear and panic from those who don’t know how they will possibly pay the mortgage or rent or provide for their families. I’ve seen tears from stress, tears from pain, tears from hurt. Many of those tears have been yours. Some of those tears have been mine.
So what do we do? What do we do when we’ve cried every tear we’ve got left? What do we do when our heart is sunk down into the pit of our stomachs? What do we do when it hurts to be alive? What do we do?
We turn to the Lord. We turn to his Word. Today in particular, we turn to 2 Corinthians 1, the second lesson this morning. There we hear this special encouragement: Expect Comfort When You Suffer.
What’s your happy place? Where do you go or what do you do when you need to get away and feel happy? Some guys like spending time tinkering in the garage or cutting the grass. Some gals find solace in putting together a nice meal in the kitchen. Some parents find happiness in spending time with their children.
But where do you go to find happiness when those things aren’t working? Some like to lose themselves in their favorite music. Maybe that will put them in the mood for happiness. Others might put on a sappy movie where they live happily ever after. That might make you feel good. Or if you’re a do-it-yourselfer you might go and buy a new self-help book. Years ago it was the Chicken Soup for the Soul series that everyone ran to for happiness.
But what if those don’t work? Then what? More drastic measures are needed. Maybe a shopping spree will help. A new wardrobe or a new car could bring some happiness. Some might turn to comfort food for comfort. The junkier and unhealthier the better. Some might see if they can find happiness at the bottom of a few bottles. Some might relax and ease the tension by smoking something found in a little white carton, and if that doesn’t work maybe smoking something found in a little clear baggie.
We will try just about anything to find happiness. We’ll go to any lengths, pay any price, or sacrifice just about anything to be happy. Whatever it takes! We need happiness and comfort!
All this time, all this effort, all this money spent in seeking happiness and comfort for our troubled lives, yet all the while we forget the one true source of happiness. The apostle Paul reminds us today: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.”
How easily we forget that the source of true compassion and comfort is our God and Father in heaven. I suppose you could say that’s only symptomatic of what we sinners normally do. We run around God’s creation ignoring him and disobeying him, and then when we realize what a sinful and broken world this really is and that we truly need help—then we try to think of any way we can fix it ourselves. Or we turn to any other thing we can buy or consume to make things better. Then, when we are really desperate and need help, maybe then we’ll pull God out of our back pocket like he’s some kind of lucky rabbit’s foot.
Instead, Paul reminds us that God is the first place we can turn when we are suffering in this world. He is the, “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.” God is not some mad scientist up in the skies who strokes his handlebar mustaches and cackles with twisted laughs because we puny humans suffer. No! He truly has compassion on us and wants to give us comfort.
We’ve seen this in Jesus over the last few weeks. He had such great compassion on the poor and helpless people of Israel. He patiently and lovingly took the time to heal person after person, like the leper who came and begged him for help. He tenderly preached the good news of his kingdom and of true comfort, sometimes to just one leper or blind man at a time.
This is the kind of compassion our God has for us in our sufferings. His divine heart is sensitive to our sufferings. So he mercifully gives us comfort. The only problem is that we don’t always understand how he is comforting us. He might answer our prayers and help right away. Or he might let us suffer a little bit more so that we can learn patience and endurance. Or he might let our sufferings carry on for quite some time so that we truly never forget that he is most important in our lives. But regardless of his methods or his timeframe, he is the, “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.”
Still not convinced? Then look at the greatest evidence of his compassion and comfort—Jesus Christ. Look at what verse five says, “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” To be sure, we have plenty of sufferings flow over into our lives because we follow Christ. These are different than the regular, every day problems of life. The sufferings of Christ are specifically because we are Christians. These sufferings are the funny looks and mocking sneers that we get. These sufferings are from the tiring battles with temptations every day. These sufferings are from the struggle to beat down our own wants and desires so that we can make Christ most important in life.
Yet we have this encouragement: “Just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” Through Jesus we have comfort that overflows. In him we have a brother who was tempted in every way that we are, but who had the power to overcome. In him we have a servant who did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a payment for us. In him we have a Savior who removed all the burdens of guilt that we carry.
It was his compassion in living and dying for us that brings us the truest comfort we could ever find. Christ brought us the comfort of hope and peace and joy. He brought us the comfort of knowing that the sufferings of life are just temporary, but the perfection and glory of heaven are eternal.
Each of us deals with an unending amount of problems and pains every day. Sometimes it seems like the tears will never end. But today Paul reminds us: Expect Comfort When You Suffer. God is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort and in Christ we find true comfort and happiness to get us through this life until we reach eternal life. Look Christ and his cross. There are true comfort and happiness!
What a relief! When we sink our teeth into the juicy morsels of good news from Christ what a delicious happiness and euphoria we have. There is truly no joy like that of knowing that our God has compassion on us and desires to comfort us in all our sufferings.
But that’s not the only reason that God grants comfort to us. It was the 16th century English poet and clergyman John Donne who famously said, “No man is an island.” This is especially true when it comes to Christians.
God never intended for us to go it alone in this world. Not only is God with us with his compassion and comfort, but he also gives us one another to be sources of compassion and comfort. Listen again to what Paul says in the first two verses: “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 have received from God.”
We do it over and over again. We go through the toughest of times. We feel sad. We feel lonely. We feel depressed. And what are the first things we so often do then? We leave our Bibles closed. We stay away from church events. We stay away from worship.
Satan is so skilled at fooling our minds too! We convince ourselves with statements like: “I’m just too upset to be in church.” “I’m so sad I can’t even bear to see other people.” “I might cry if I go to church.” “I’m too exhausted from life I just need a week off.” But when we close our Bibles and close ourselves off from one another we are closing ourselves off from the comfort that God offers and the comfort that others offer.
I’ve invited people to church before and had them say, “Well I don’t need to go to church. I can worship God at home.” That might be true. But that doesn’t mean that God wants us to worship only at home. He wants us to be in his house and he wants us to be around one another. The bond we share can be the source of regular comfort for each other.
Paul explained to the Corinthians how this works in the second lesson today. He told them how the apostles shared in suffering and in comfort with the Corinthians. It was mutual. When one group was distressed or suffered, the other group was empathetic and encouraging. When one group was comforted, then the other group was comforted too. This led Paul to conclude in verse 7: “And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”
This is yet another blessing of being part of a Christian family of believers here at Christ the King. We share in each other’s sufferings. When you have a family member pass away, then we all grieve with you. When you are struggling financially, then we all try to help support you. When you have pains and problems and seemingly endless tears, then we are there to listen and to hug and to care.
How can we do that? How will we know what to say? How will we know what to do when someone needs our encouragement and comfort? Remember our source! “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . who comfort us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” Not only do we come to God for his compassion and comfort—a recharging of our spiritual batteries—but then that very comfort is what overflows to help out others.
What a blessing! You can Expect Comfort When You Suffer! You get it from God through Jesus, but then you can share that same comfort with others!
I’ve surely seen my share of tears over the last few months. You probably have too. Some of them have been yours. Some of them have been mine. Sadly, because we live in a sin-filled world, there are many more tears to come.
But I’ll be okay. And so will you. We have a God who is filled with compassion and promises to grant us comfort in just the right way in all our troubles. And we’ll also be okay because we have one another. That’s a lot of strength. That’s a big support system. That’s a lot of comfort. We have our Savior. We have each other. And that’s all we really need. What a comfort!
Posted on February 12, 2012, in Church, Sermons and tagged 2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 1, Alcoholism, Church, Comfort, Compassion, Distress, Happiness, Heal, Healing, Marijuana, Movies, Music, Paul, Sermons, Smoking, Suffering, Trouble, Troubles. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.