Pain has the power to ruin a good day. Pain can darken a sunshine-dripping life with threatening clouds of suffering. It’s amazing how one small blister on our toe can create such trauma on a hike that we miss the beauty of a mountain view or the majestic colors of a glorious sunset. Instead of basking in the beauty and being awed by the majesty, we drown in the persistent pain of a raw and tender spot on our foot. Pain has the power to ruin a good day.
We all face places of pain and difficulty. We encounter suffering that is beyond our ability to handle or navigate. Paul had traveled through that deep fissure and helps us understand the power of God’s comfort to conquer the potential power of our pain. Paul doesn’t want the Corinthian believers to take lightly his personal story of deliverance. He was in trouble. Deep trouble. Paul describes the affliction as life-threatening and beyond the scope of his strength and ability to handle on his own.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. (2 Corinthians 1:8)
How do we handle death-dealing blows in our lives?
1. Praise in the midst of the pain.
The gospel is the story of how God rescues us! The praise that drips from Paul’s pen is more than a stale theory that he is teaching. It is genuine praise to God for actual rescue by God. The divine blessedness, from which Paul and the Corinthian believers benefited, originated from the character of God.
“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 troubles.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a)
As the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, God blesses His people with the magnificence of His great love (John 3:16; Rom 5:8; Eph 2:4-7). As the Father of mercies, God pours out the joys of His unsurpassed compassion and absolute sympathy upon those who share in His plan. Just as I look upon my daughters when they’re in trouble and am concerned enough to intervene appropriately in their struggle, God is our Father who passionately cares about us in our afflictions so that He perfectly intervenes (Ps 103:13). As the God of all comfort, God pours out the blessings of His unfailing help to those who share in His purpose.
But comfort is more than a feeling of contentment that we receive or a pain-numbing dose of divine anesthetic. Comfort is the active force of God’s grace strengthening and sustaining us in difficulties so that we live out each day with unwavering commitment and endurance toward His purposes.
Today, we must praise God who is the glorious mover in our lives. This praise must come from us even in the context of the suffering that we may endure. In good times and bad, as we focus on God in all of His glory, we celebrate His glorious character, recognizing that He is the One who is the source of mercy and comfort in the whole of our lives. The point of Paul’s praise is that God meets us in this life, even in our trouble, with encouragement that moves us forward with strength and courage. Regardless what we face, our praise declares the work of God to transform our despair into hope, our sorrow into love, and our fear into joy.
God’s comfort always matches our suffering. The sufferings we endure as followers of Christ will be matched equally and superabundantly by the comfort of Christ.
“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:5)
Paul has in mind the succession of events in the life of a believer; first, the affliction, and then the comfort. Thus, Paul has a sure and steadfast hope that as followers of Christ endure sufferings, they will also receive abounding encouragement from God.
2. Embrace the purpose in our pain.
In verses 9 and 10, we see the purpose in our pain. With every trial and trouble, we must also see the purpose that God fills with each moment of suffering. The redeeming purpose in our pain is that we might trust in God more than we trust in ourselves. The purpose of the “sentence of death,” beyond Paul’s ability to handle on his own, was so that Paul and his team would trust, not in themselves, but in God who raises the dead. Every faithful Jew would have prayed every day to God who is “mighty forever, You make the dead to live.” For Paul, however, this prayer and declaration of God’s power has been infused with new meaning in light of the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection infuses our everyday life with supernatural power from God.
A second redeeming purpose for our pain is that we might comfort others (2 Cor 1:4). The result of divine intervention and help is so that we can, in turn, comfort and encourage others in all of their trials through the comfort with which we have been comforted by God.
3. Remember that God rescues.
As Paul and his team were pushed beyond their ability and experiencing deep despair, God intervened. This is the beauty of the gospel which shapes our lives. God intervenes to turn our despair to hope, giving purpose to the most devastating circumstances. We face overwhelming circumstances that lead to despair [“the sentence of death”], but God, who raises the dead, intervenes!
God’s rescuing power, which rescued Paul, continues its work of rescuing God’s people (1:10). In verse 11, Paul reminds us that God’s rescuing power also moves on the wings of His people’s prayers. Through the help of prayer, believers in Corinth join Paul in the gratitude to God for His delivering power.
So as we walk through our days of struggle and face the persistence of pain, we need to focus on the glorious rescue that God is bringing us. We need to embrace the purpose that God has for us in our pain. And we need to praise the Lord through the pain!!