God’s comfort in trouble
3 May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! He is the compassionate Father and God of all comfort. 4 He’s the one who comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble. We offer the same comfort that we ourselves received from God. 5 That is because we receive so much comfort through Christ in the same way that we share so many of Christ’s sufferings. 6 So if we have trouble, it is to bring you comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is to bring you comfort from the experience of endurance while you go through the same sufferings that we also suffer. 7 Our hope for you is certain, because we know that as you are partners in suffering, so also you are partners in comfort.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
Good Day Family,
Seeking Comfort, Compassion, and Companions
What does it mean to be comfortable? Does that mean that we are free from trouble? Is it like the song lyrics, “Summertime…and the living is easy.” If you’re not familiar with that tune, it comes from Porgy and Bess, an opera written by George Gershwin featuring African American characters. Like most operas, it is filled with drama, the characters endure pain, suffering, and tragedy. Yet, the most memorable aspect of the work is this song that has been recorded and played over and over. It’s easy feel and smooth chords stand in contrast the harsh realities of the storyline of the opera.
It's a song of promise. Of hope. In the midst of despair, there are possibilities for a better life, a new day, a brighter future. In fact, the song is a lullaby, and in typical form, it simplifies the realities of life to make it accessible for a child to hear and a parent to sing.
Our faith, however, cannot be reduced to lullaby understanding. There are harsh realities to ponder, and difficult questions to consider. In this letter, Paul explains to the church that their suffering has purpose, but so does their comfort. They are to be shared. If some suffer, we all are called to enter into that suffering. In fact, the word compassion means to suffer with. It is the gift and responsibility of community. Just as God is our companion in our struggles, so should we be to one another.
Our comfort is a result of enduring suffering, not avoiding it. Just as Paul says, “If we are comforted, it is to bring you comfort from the experience of endurance while you go through the same sufferings that we also suffer.” We see evidence of what happens when we try to avoid discomfort. Individuals may turn to drugs to mask the pain they experience. Relationships break when family members, colleagues, or friends refuse to engage in the work required to maintain and grow any relationship. Marginalized communities continue to be disenfranchised and disproportionally impacted by policies designed to help a privileged few while the masses must make do for themselves. Avoiding discomfort, however, is a temporary fix that does not lead to resolution or restoration. It delays the inevitable conflict and confrontation.
As people of faith, let us pray for the boldness necessary to seek a greater, more sustaining comfort that walks as companions with compassion. The Holy Spirit empowers us for this continuing mission of the Body of Christ. The promise of God’s abiding presence remains true: “ I’ve commanded you to be brave and strong, haven’t I? Don’t be alarmed or terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Be encouraged, and