2 Corinthians 1:1-7
‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.’ John Watson
I visited a good friend yesterday. I’ve seen a lot of him this year, because back in the spring he had a heart attack. I was shocked when I heard the news, as, I think, were all who know him. He is in his early 70’s, but is one of the fittest people I know. He has run regularly for many years. He goes to the gym a few times each week. Actually, it was while he was running on the treadmill that he had his attack. We are thankful that an off duty policeman was also there that morning, and he massaged Gordon’s heart while the ambulance was on route to him. After about a week in a medically induced coma, Gordon returned to us all. He has made such good progress he is now back in the gym (with his doctor’s permission! He isn’t running anymore, but he is walking fast!!) He and I share at quite a deep level. He has walked with me through some dark days, and I have very much wanted to be there for him this year. Yesterday, as we chatted, we reflected on how going through deep waters gives you a credibility and extra ability to help others who are similarly going through the mill.
Paul says in this wonderful passage that when we suffer God comforts us, and what He gives to us is for the benefit of others. He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. The Message.
Of course, Paul particularly had in mind the sufferings (persecutions) that come from following Jesus. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort – we get a full measure of that, too. The Message. (As we pray for the suffering church, it is good for us to know that there is a special comfort from heaven for them in their trials.) But although this primarily has reference to suffering for the faith, I believe the principle holds good across the board. On the way home from my mother’s funeral, a family friend said to me, ‘You’ll be a better pastor now.’ It seemed a hard thing to say on that day, but I believe it was correct. I look back on the ‘premature’ death of my mum, at the age of 51, as a defining moment in my life. I believe it gave me a deeper empathy than I might otherwise have known. I don’t see mum’s early death from cancer as a good thing, but I see how God has used it for good, and is still doing so.
‘God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.’ John Henry Jowett
Our God is a wonderful ‘Cook’. He takes all the ingredients of our lives (and let’s face it, there are some things in the pot that cause us to instinctively turn up our noses) and He mixes them together according to His divine ‘recipe’, and something so tasty emerges.