Friday, November 30, 2012

2 Corin 1: Bringing Comfort to Grieving Parents

Over the past few years, I have often returned to the wonderful promises and encouragement found in verses 3 through 7 of the first chapter of 2 Corinthians.   In it, the Apostle Paul writes,

“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. 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.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ESV)

This little passage has at least three significant applications to those of us who are grieving the death of a child.

Praising God for His Mercies & Comfort
First, God provides all of the mercies and comfort we receive in the midst of our great suffering.  Paul’s first point is to bless God, even in the midst of the great suffering he has endured and which he describes later in the chapter.  How is Paul able to provide us with encouragement?  Because of Paul’s sure conviction that just as God allows suffering, all of the comfort we receive, in and through suffering, is from Him.  While God may use humans and human institutions to be the vehicle of comfort, the text is clear that God is the one responsible for orchestrating human interaction so as to bring comfort to those who are suffering.  Therefore, as we experience any comfort in our grief, in various forms  and times, we ought to have a spirit of thanksgiving towards God, the source of our comfort. 

The Promise of Purpose in Suffering
Second, we can live in the sure hope that God has a purpose behind our sufferings.  What a beautiful promise it is to those of us who have experienced tragedy that no suffering is wasted.   Suffering is not random or haphazard; God knows what type of suffering will be necessary, given our unique personalities and life circumstances, to change us into people that are more and more like him.   Paul’s hope in the Corinthian church was unshaken, given his knowledge that God would work great purposes through their sufferings. We, too, can take heart that suffering is in our lives will be experienced in such a manner, and to such a certain degree, so as to provide Himself as the means to assuage that suffering. 

The Comfort in Christian Community
Third, are called to experience both the comfort and the suffering in the context of our Christ-centered community. Paul tells us in verse 4 that God comforts us in our personal afflictions so that we can comfort others who are in any affliction.  In verse 6, Paul emphasizes that if any of us (“we”) are afflicted, or if any of us (“we”) receive comfort, it is for the benefit of the community. In other words, God’s purpose in providing us comfort is not merely to provide us comfort for our own personal grief, but it is to provide us with opportunities to pass along that comfort to others. For those of us grieving the death of a young child, and who call upon the name of the Lord as our source of strength, it should be clear to us that God’s comfort is not for us alone; it is for all those fellow grieving parents with whom we cross paths. 

If you have experienced significant suffering, such as the death of a child, I pray that you would trust God for using it for great purposes.  If you have experienced comfort, I pray that you would not just thank God for the provision of that comfort, but also look for ways to pass along that comfort to others.