“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 affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
As pilgrims traveling through this sad world to our heavenly home, we regularly face suffering in one way or another. We face suffering in: our bodies; our souls; financial reversals; in various family relationships and friendships; our work; persecution from the world; confusing life circumstances; depression; death… just to name a few. The reality of the Christian life is that it is full of trials and hardships. Jesus promised us that this will be the case, “In this world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). As a result, we find ourselves often needing comfort and encouragement as we make our way through this age to the age to come.
Thankfully, God has given us great comfort in our tribulations through his Son. He doesn’t leave us to our own devices to comfort others and ourselves. Right after Jesus tells us that we will have tribulation, he goes on to say in that same sentence, “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” God gave us his Son to conquer our sin, and to overcome the world along with all its misery and brokenness. Jesus Christ, as the consolation of Israel (Lk 2:25-26), is our true and everlasting comfort. He is the one who has purchased our entrance into heaven, our eternal home, where all our suffering will one day cease forever (Rev. 21:4). Therefore, we can take heart; we can receive comfort and point others to that same comfort. This is the reason why 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 calls our God “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 also teaches us that one of the purposes of God in all our afflictions is so that we would, in turn, be able to comfort others in their pain. In fact, it says that we’ll be able to comfort those who are in any affliction. This is a curious thing to say, isn’t it? Not only will we be able to comfort those who are experiencing the same hardships we’ve gone through, but this verse also says we’ll be able to comfort someone suffering from any affliction that we ourselves haven’t experienced. How is this possible? It is possible because the comfort for them and for us is the same, and comes from the same source, Jesus Christ.
The comfort of every affliction of every Christian is ultimately found in Jesus Christ alone. All of our afflictions are occasions through which God lifts all our eyes to Christ, the one who is deeply acquainted with our sorrows and grief in this life (Is 53:3). The Gospel is the comfort above all comforts and applies to any and all experiences of suffering. As a result, we’re “able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” because we’re sharing Christ with one another!
Our Heidelberg Catechism (Q&A 55) says, “What do you understand by “the communion of saints”? First, that believers one and all, as members of this community, share in Christ and in all his treasures and gifts.” We all share together in Christ and all his gifts. His gifts to us include the comfort we’ve received from him in our times of distress and suffering. Therefore, let us share our comfort with one another. Let us share Jesus with each other.
The answer to Question 55 of the Catechism goes on to encourage that very thing, “…each member should consider it a duty to use these gifts readily and cheerfully for the service and enrichment of the other members.” John Calvin also shared the same exhortation in his comments on 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. He wrote that these riches, “…Are not to be kept by us to ourselves, but every one must communicate to others what he has received.”
So, be bold with your gifts! Be eager to enrich one another with the sweet gifts of how Christ and the Good News in Him have brought you comfort in the midst of your struggles. As you do this with one another, we’ll together experience the deep bonds of the communion of the saints. This is a way in which our Lord is often pleased to use to strengthen us in the midst of our afflictions and bring glory to his Name.
In all our suffering and sorrows may the words of Psalm 34:1-3 be on our lips and in our hearts as we comfort one another with the Gospel, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together” (Ps 34:1-3, NIV).
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word” (2 Thess 2:16-17).
 Calvin, John (2011-11-15). Calvin’s Complete Bible Commentaries (With Active Table of Contents in Biblical Order) (Kindle Locations 458000-458001). Kindle Edition.