In 2 Corinthians 1:7, Paul connects hope with suffering: “Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” Because Paul believes that God comforts us not only for our own well-being but also so that we can pass that comfort on to others (2 Cor 1:4), then he does not fall apart when those he loves experience suffering. Instead, he rejoices in hope, knowing–from his own experience–that God’s comfort will come to his brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering. And in fact, Paul knows that there is a depth of comfort that only comes to those who are suffering.
Those who are comfortable need no comfort. Thus to some extent, when we avoid suffering at all cost, we miss out on experiencing a particular depth of comfort that only comes to those who suffer. I don’t believe this means we are to seek out suffering in a reckless manner. But I do believe that the reality of God’s presence and comfort means that we can obey Him in faith, even in areas that will likely lead to some degree of suffering. We can obey, knowing that in our suffering we will surely experience the mercy and comfort of Christ, and through His comfort we will be enabled to offer greater comfort to others.
I’m not much of a poet, but I was reflecting on this passage at a recent time of solitude, and God brought the title of this post to mind and then prompted me to make this attempt at expressing what I’m learning:
When suffering comes my way, God’s comfort will surely abound;
Thus suffering can be a gift, for in it true comfort is found.
When mere comfortableness is my goal, God’s comfort will not astound;
But when God’s comfort meets my suffering, then that comfort is spread around.
So God, in my suffering,
let Your comfort to me
so that others may see