2 Corinthians 1:5-7 continues Paul talking about how God comforts us in all of our sufferings in union with the sufferings that Christ experienced. Comfort for the hurting always gets passed on. It says,  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ, we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” One commentator said, “Paul believes that there are some significant benefits that go with the suffering one undergoes for Christ’s sake—the joy and encouragement one gets from seeing others come to or grow in Christ.”[1] The idea of the passage is not just personal comfort that comes from others’ suffering. It’s an inspiration!

This brought to mind a quote often attributed to Tertullian, an early Christian around 150 AD, who lived during some horrible times of persecution at the hands of Rome. He said, “The more you mow us down, the more we grow. The blood of the saints is the seed of the Church.” When others see the way martyrs boldly go to their death, they are inspired by such testimony. I remember Robert the Bruce from my history of Western Civilization. But I had never heard of William Wallace until the movie “Braveheart” came out. Bruce was the leader who moved Scotland to rebel against the evils of an abusive English Monarch. He is credited with having won Scotland’s freedom at the Battle of Bannockburn around 1300. What many history books leave out is that it was indeed William Wallace who inspired Bruce. Wallace led successful rebellions against the evil Longshanks, King of England, but was finally captured and tortured. In the movie’s final scene, we see Wallace being flayed alive and even then screaming the word “freedom.” Bruce was one of the local Lords who betrayed Wallace at the hands of his enemies. But as he watched the courageous death of Wallace, he was moved so strongly that he picked up the staff of William Wallace and finished the task of leading Scotland to Freedom.

Hughes summarizes this passage, “This is a dynamic way of looking at life because it endows all Christian living with elevated importance. The hard things we undergo and the comforts are all graces that authenticate and empower ministry so that those who truly desire to minister will patiently accept their lot from God and work aon.”[2] Job serves as an exciting example of this. Having suffered in every way imaginable in life, he is most famous for some of the most frequently quoted phrases: “Naked came I into the world, naked from it I will go.” “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all his sufferings, he did not curse God. Even when his wife urged him to curse God, he replied that he would not trust God only when good things came his way. He will trust God even when the bad things come! “Though He slays me, yet will I trust Him.” When things become difficult, when things pile up against us, when the worst that we might imagine overwhelms us, let’s not curse God or our circumstances. Instead, let’s remember the very ending of the book of Job and wait patiently for God’s comfort and deliverance from our trials. Paul said that his hope remains unshaken during the hardships because he knows God’s comfort is just around the corner.

[1] Witherington, Ben, III. 1995. Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[2] Hughes, R. Kent. 2006. 2 Corinthians: Power in Weakness. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.