Suffering for the Benefit of Others
Today we begin a new book of the Bible, 2 Corinthians. This is the second letter to the Corinthians that we have recorded for us in the Bible, which makes sense because there is a “2” in front of it…You learn that kind of stuff in seminary you know! In 2 Corinthians 1 Paul opens the chapter with a discussion on suffering. Here it is: 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.
No one has ever signed up for suffering. But here in this passage we see two different “benefits” of suffering in our lives…predictably, these benefits are connected to how suffering benefits others. First, we read in verse 4 that God comforts us in our suffering so we are able to comfort those who are in trouble with the same comfort we have been given by God. God comforts me and then I am equipped to comfort you. I know, it seems like it would be better to skip my need to be comforted and let God just comfort you, but it doesn’t work that way. The second benefit of suffering is found in verse 5 where are told that our consolation in Christ is proportional to our suffering. A benefit of suffering is the fact that we experience the consolation of God. We experience God’s activity in our lives through suffering. Can this give us a different perspective on suffering? Can this give us an “others-centered” perspective on suffering? I hope it can. I hope that we can see that suffering can be used for our benefit and the benefit of others but this requires seeing “others” as more important than ourselves. Of course, the prime example of this attitude regarding suffering is found in the suffering of Jesus. Jesus didn’t suffer for His own benefit but for your benefit and my benefit. If you are suffering this morning, or know someone who is, perhaps you can use these words from Paul as encouragement.