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 tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
2 Corinthians 1:3-6
In returning to Bermuda recently, I stood in the pouring rain for the funeral of a dear friend since childhood days. The pall bearers, because of the manner in which the graves are dug and covered with slate, found themselves standing on top of other graves. I was filled with emotion, thinking to myself how misfortune could create embarrassment to one and all. Thankfully, that did not happen!
As I turned to return to the car, I looked up to see the massive remnants of a “stone quarry”, no longer active. For centuries, Bermudians have built their homes out of “limestone” which was cut from the hillsides. (More recently they have resorted to concrete blocks.) Huge blocks were chiseled and after prying them loose, they were sawed until they secured the size blocks they wanted for the construction intended. When the roof rafters had been in place, a thin “slate” was applied and mortared. The type of slate that used to be applied to the tops of the graves was much the same and so my mind was still back there, envisioning a catastrophe about to transpire. I learned later that they now use a more sturdy slate, constructed of concrete.
This morning as I read from 2 Corinthians 1, I could not help but notice again that the Apostle used the word “comfort” nine times in 8 verses, and friend, it was used in conjunction with “afflictions, sufferings, death”. If one thinks the Christian life should be a picnic, or rose garden free of spikes, forget it! The Apostle notes that God had assured him, at the outset of his ministry that he would suffer. That was God’s method of using him for the ministry to which he was called.
After relating that idea to them is when he tells them about his own suffering. He assures them that God was refining him for his ministry and thus God provided him COMFORT in all of the circumstances in which he would be engaged. It is then that he relates how God had not only given him comfort, but that God would likewise give them comfort through the afflictions they would experience. Why would that be the case? It would be a part of the chiseling and sawing necessary to fit them to minister to others. It produces deeper grounding, and a deeper love and understanding to those experiencing deep waters.
Lest we miss the ultimate in his message to us… He strengthens us for now and then the ultimate, “death”! But, don’t go there yet! We have a ministry here and now! He, in his closing words in verse eleven, “you also joining in “helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.”