Suffering and the Child of God 2 Corinthians 1.3-11
“Why do Christians suffer?” This is a question that has challenged the minds of Christians for centuries. There is no single simple answer to the question. The Bible supplies some of the answers to this difficult question. Yet, we must note that the specific reason behind each incidence of suffering will not be known until we reach glory.
As Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers in this second epistle, he wanted them to understand two things. Suffering will not be a stranger to the Christian experience. Second, Paul’s suffering did not mean a second-rate apostle. Paul described for them and for us, the blessing of God’s comfort in the midst of suffering.
Why do Christians suffer? Why doesn’t our loving Heavenly Father protect us from all suffering? Paul suggests in this chapter several reasons why God sometimes allows His children to endure suffering.
First, we are allowed to suffer in order that we may experience the comfort of God (v. 3-4) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
The Lord allows us to suffer at times in order that we may learn what it is to be comforted by God. After a particularly hard time in our lives, when we had experienced suffering at the hand of other Christians, my wife said to me, “You know, it is necessary that we go through these kind of experiences or we would never learn some things that we have learned about God.”
Second, sometimes we suffer in order that we might be able to share the comfort that we received from God with others (v.4b) “Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
We cannot speak to others about the comfort that God can give in a specific situation if we have never experienced God’s comfort. I have a friend who suffered through the same kind of experience that we did. We were able to share some of the comfort that God had given us because we had been where he was.
Third, we suffer sometimes because we are receiving the overflow of the world’s hatred of our Lord (v.5). “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” Paul was not persecuted because the Romans and the Jews didn’t like Paul. Paul was persecuted because they didn’t like the Christ that Paul preached. In Luke 10:16 our Lord Jesus lays down a principle that we need to get a handle on. “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” When the folks we minister to hear us, they are hearing Him. When they reject us, they are rejecting Him.
Fourth, sometimes we suffer so others can receive the benefit of our suffering (v.6) “Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.”
Fifth, sometimes we suffer in order that we might learn to trust in God and not in self (v.9). “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God, who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us,” This is an important lesson and a hard one to learn. The place that we learn it is in the wilderness where there is nowhere else to turn but to Him.
Finally, sometimes we suffer so that we may share in the power of prayer. The Corinthians had a real part in Paul’s victory over his suffering in their prayers for him.
How do we handle it when we suffer? Three resources are mentioned by Paul. Our first resource is God’s character. Proverbs 18:10 tells us “The name of the LORD is a high tower, the righteous run into it and are safe.” Look how Paul ran into the refuge of God’s character. He reminded himself that God is the Father of Compassion. God the Father cares about what is happening to us. He cares and He is doing something about the situation.
Second, Christ is our helper (verse 5). “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” Jesus, Himself, is our comforter. He is there with us. He understands what we are going through. He gives us the help we need.
God’s character, Christ’s help, and there is one more resource. The third resource is prayer (v.11). “You also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.” We must not think, “Why pray when we can worry.” We must think, “Why worry when we can pray.”