When was the last time you asked, “Why?” Most of us won’t have to think too far back in our lives. Anytime something tragic happens, we want to know the reason behind it. For each twist in life doesn’t turn out the way we had hoped, we demand answers. Even when we know we are at fault for how things have gone, we still agonize over why it had to happen that way.
The opening passage of 2 Corinthians gives us a clue about why we have to endure hardships and dis-appointments. Paul praises God for the comfort He gives us through troubles and then explains the multiplying effect of God’s care for us when we hurt: “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:4). We may never fully understand why bad things happen, but we can rejoice that God walks with us through suffering and then sends us to walk alongside others in their moments of need.
This beautiful truth reflects the heart of God who sent Jesus to suffer in our place and promises always to walk with us. It was with this hopeful assurance of God’s comfort that Paul began his letter to the believers in Corinth, people who had, like us, suffered in many ways, struggled at times to remain faithful, and found strength in the fellowship of their church family.
For the remainder of the summer, I plan to preach from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, a book rich with theology and practical insight for how to follow Jesus and how to care for one another through our shared life in the church.
This calling to comfort one another with the comfort we have received from God points us to practical ways that we can live out Jesus’ command to love one another. If you have experienced the loss of a loved one, perhaps you can now encourage someone else in their time of grief. If you have endured a serious illness, perhaps you can now support someone who is sick. If you have dealt with depression or anxiety, perhaps you can now care for others who feel the heaviness of emotional distress.
In these ways, God redeems our suffering, as we make sense of what we have had to endure by passing along to others the strength, comfort and hope God has given us. That’s what the church of Jesus Christ is sup-posed to be and to do. This is a place where sinners find the Savior and where people loved by God can love others.
Paul also writes that as we follow Jesus, we help spread the “pleasing aroma of Christ” to people around us, not only within the church but also out into the world (2 Cor. 2:14-16). How we speak and treat others will show the world who Jesus is, and our actions of love and compassion can reflect Jesus’ own heart of grace.
Throughout 2 Corinthians, we are called to follow Jesus in ways that set us apart from the unbelieving world but that also help draw people to the Savior who alone can offer new life. In other words, your life matters. What you have suffered can be redeemed for the good of others. What you do and say today can turn hearts toward Jesus. How you live inside and outside the church can show the world who Jesus is.
We are new creations, Christ’s ambassadors and God’s co-workers (2 Cor. 5:17-21), called to make a positive difference in the church and the world.