3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you. 5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. (ESV)
2 Corinthians 2:3-7
The Hope of Comfort in Affliction
One of the most difficult realities about life in a fallen world is that it is inevitably filled with trials and afflictions (James 1:2). We suffer, and as long as we are on this earth, we can expect to continue to suffer. Trials and afflictions take many different forms and vary in degree, but they will be a part of our lives.
Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us without hope, even in the midst of trials! God has promised to be with us as we face them. In perhaps the most famous Psalm we read these words, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me”. (Psalm 23:4) God has promised to be near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) and has promised deliverance from our afflictions (Psalm 34:19). As God’s children, we also have His promised Holy Spirit, who is our Helper (John 14:26; 16:7) and Jesus even promised His disciples that He would always be with them. (Matthew 28:20) We have reason to hope in our afflictions because we are never alone during them!
Another reason we have hope in affliction is that God has promised to use our them for our good. Romans 8:28 reminds us that God causes all things to work together for good. James 1:2-4 helps us to see that God uses trials to sanctify us, conforming us into the image of Christ. Afflictions are never meaningless. While painful, they help us. Afflictions grow us into Christ-likeness. As painful as it may sound, trials are an integral part of our sanctification.
But there is yet another reality that will give us hope in the midst of our trials. In 2 Corinthians 2:3-7, God gives us a simple truth: my trials are not only about me. Our afflictions do not serve only us, but also others.
In typical fashion, Paul urges the Corinthians to praise God (verse 3), then he gives us the reason why we ought to praise him: Because God is faithful to comfort his children in the midst of affliction so that we may be able to extend that same comfort to others in affliction. Therefore, my trials are not about only me, they are for the comfort and salvation of others.
It is a tremendous encouragement to know that our trials are not being wasted. God is at work through them. One of the ways He wants to work through affliction is to enable us to fulfill His great command, that we would love Him and love one another. Take heart, suffering saint. God is at work in you, both for you and for others.
(This was originally posted on the Biblearc blog by Chadwick Haygood on April 2, 2015.)