These are the words of the ancient patriarch, Job. But many echo his sentiment. Many feel that life is short and full of problems.
It’s important to realize that being a Christian does not erase the challenges and troubles of this life. It’s tempting for us as Christians to think that being a Christian should minimize our troubles. After all, we have God with us! Shouldn’t He protect us from hardships? Shouldn’t life be easier?
Jesus said, “In this world you shall have trouble” (John 16:33). Paul reminded new believers in Antioch that, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
But trouble and hardship cannot separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35). “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble” (Nahum 1:7
No stranger to hardship
The Apostle Paul was no stranger to trouble and hardship. In fact, from the beginning he was marked out for these experiences by the Lord Jesus himself. At Paul’s conversion, the Lord said in Acts 9:15-16, “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
The most comprehensive list of Paul’s hardship and suffering is found in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29.
Comfort for those who suffer
One of the main themes of 2 Corinthians is God’s comfort in the midst of affliction and suffering. This particular theme reaches all people because we all go through hardships and difficulties. We all suffer. Some members of the church (like Paul) are called on to suffer more than others. But we can all expect to make strong connections with 2 Corinthians as the truths of this letter reach into our experiences and teach us about the way God relates to our sufferings.
The primary occasion for an emphasis on God’s comfort and purposes in suffering was the accusation by Paul’s opponents in Corinth—claiming that Paul’s suffering calls into question his ministry and apostleship.
Of course, it is an ancient accusation suggesting that a person’s hardship is a clear sign of God’s displeasure. But in this case, it was being used to accomplish a very evil and subversive purpose of discrediting God’s apostle with the intention of taking his place of leadership in the church at Corinth.
So Paul opens his letter praising God for the very thing his opponents are using to discredit his ministry. For Paul, as it should be for all of us:
God is an active presence in the midst of trouble, hardship and suffering.
II Corinthians 1:3-4 bring us a very God-centered focus for our troubles.
- Verse 3 focuses on who God is.
- “He is the God of all comfort”
- Verse 4a focuses on what God does.
- “Who comforts us in all our troubles”
- Verse 4b focuses on God’s purpose in what he does.
- “So that we can comfort those in any trouble”
God calls us into His school of comfort where we study His ministry of comfort to us so that we can be equipped to be His agents of comfort to others.
Our God is so personal that He meets us in our troubles and comforts us through them. The people who know God can say with great confidence, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” It’s a very personal relationship. And because the Lord is my Shepherd, I can say, (Psalm 23:4) “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
The apostle is directing us to be students of divine comfort as God is preparing us for ministries of comfort.