1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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.
We talked yesterday about the deep significance in the greetings in Paul's letters. Note as we begin the next letter to Corinth that he greets them with God's grace and peace. When we fail it leads to shame and guilt which steals our peace. The Bible says that those who refuse God's grace and come face to face with their history have no rest day or night. His grace restores our peace.
As Paul jumps from his greeting into the purpose for which he is writing it becomes obvious right away that something is causing the people in Corinth to suffer.
One of my quirks is that I like to look at bulletin boards. There are things for sale, notices of community events, and among other things there is often an announcement for a support group of some kind. Here in my community there is a notice for the Death Cafe. Not the name I would have chosen but it's a support group for those uncomfortable with death and/or grieving because of the loss of a loved one.
Bulletin boards often have notices posted for groups of various kinds. It may be for those dealing with cancer, or for young mothers, or addictions help. The common denominator is that when we are going through something new or hard we like to know we're not alone. We like to have the support of others who at least have some idea what we are going through.
Notice carefully the sequence in verses 3 and 4. The God we serve is among many other things a Good of comfort. We as Christians find our main source of comfort in Him. When we do, we are then qualified to comfort others because first of all we have suffered so we have something in common with them and secondly we have found a Comforter. If we have not suffered we are not qualified to walk with the suffering. If we have not found comfort we have nothing to offer those who are suffering.
Sadly religion has become far to theoretical and I find more and more people turning elsewhere for their actual needs. Is that because we as Christians have not found our comfort in Jesus? Have we no personal experience to share?
What does our Saviour know about our suffering? Poverty? Check. Judged by His place of origin? Check. Perceived to be the illegitimate son of a promiscuous mother? Check. Different? Check. Didn't fit in? Check. Refugee status? Check. Misunderstood by everyone including His parents? Check. Did He know hunger? Check. Loneliness? Check. Enemies? Check. Outsider among His own? Check. Persecuted? Check. Opposed? Check. Lost a parent at a young age? Check. Hated by his siblings and thus probably bullied? Check. Had to control unfulfilled sexual desires? Check.
The Bible summarizes it much more succinctly and says "He was tested/tempted/tried in every way that we are..."
You want to walk with Someone who has been where you are and came out the other side? Walk with Jesus. Find your comfort in Him. He does understand. He was here. He was here under pressures we will thankfully never feel to the same degree. He not only knows your particular and unique situation, He cares deeply. He may not be able to rescue you from them for reasons we will only fully understand later but He will be with you in the fire every step of the way.
When you have been through the ordeal and have come out the other side, take that experience and look for someone who needs you to say "I've never been exactly where you are but here's what happened to me..."
Religion may have lost touch of the practical side of life but Jesus knows all about it.