If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; … 2 Cor I, 6.
The apostle Paul, a minister of the gospel, counted it a privilege to endure a share of the sufferings of Christ—sufferings that came as a result of his bold proclamation of the gospel. In his most personal epistle of all, the apostle to the Gentiles presents a long list of hardships he endured to take the gospel to new frontiers. Paul and his companions were ‘so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.’ They encountered deadly peril and felt as if they had been sentenced to death! Add to that a regular supply of insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities and you get a fair picture of what apostolic ministry looked like in those days (xii, 10).
The abundance of afflictions did not destroy Paul or his companions. Instead, it made them rich in divine comfort. In all humility, they trusted God for their safety and derived consolation from the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. Paul claimed that he was thus able to comfort those who were in any affliction. Blessed are those who discover this divine purpose behind the afflictions they endure.The delightful prospect of becoming a comforter to any distraught person will enable them to endure any affliction cheerfully.
It is certainly unfair to compare our mild afflictions to the ones that the apostles endured for the sake of the gospel. The afflictions that most Christians of today endure are not due to their faith in Christ or due to their commitment to proclaim the gospel. Yet, we cite Paul’s claims with impunity while referring to our tooth aches and financial losses. This is not to say that God’s comfort is unavailable to us when we lose a dear one or when we suffer from a painful disease. However, these certainly are not the afflictions of Christ that Paul was referring to. The abundant comfort that the apostles enjoyed through Christ is certainly reserved for those who share in the afflictions of Christ. ‘For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too’ (v. 5).
On what account are you suffering? Is it for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ? Then you too, like Paul, will soon be able to say that your afflictions were for someone’s comfort and salvation. Christians are not called just to dispense comfort but to be agents of the Kingdom of God, leading people to comfort and salvation.