who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
By reading and studying the book of Job we will obviously learn more about the Theology of Suffering, and we will certainly learn more about God, more about humanity, and the glimpse of the devil and his actions also gives us greater understanding to the ways and objectives of the devil. But one thing we often overlook in the book of Job is that as much as it teaches us about suffering, it also teaches us about how to comfort somebody, through the failed case studies of Job’s three friends. We would have experienced this before – it is not easy to comfort somebody, and it is not easy to be of comfort to somebody. In this study, through the epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, we will examine how we can be a comfort to others.
There are two assumptions in this verse that must first be acknowledged before we go deeper into our study of this verse:
1. We will meet with troubles
2. The people around us will meet with troubles
Who – in the preceding verse, the identity of this ‘Who’ is clearly given: the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort [1 Cor 1:3] – where Paul highlights that God is a God of compassion and of all comfort, and in this verse in particular he goes on to explain one of the benefits or reasons why we meet with troubles. Is this the main reason or factor for our troubles? No. But it is certainly one of the many (or few) good things that come out of it.
comforts us in all our troubles – the first assumption as listed above must be acknowledged here. We will have troubles. Christians will have troubles. Humans will have troubles. Whether man-caused or self-caused; whether a result of nature or an act of God, whether big or small – we will have troubles, and we will be troubled. And based on this assumption, Paul makes a bold declaration – God comforts us in all these troubles of ours. No matter man-caused or self-caused, no matter a result of nature or an act of God, no matter big or small. In all our troubles, God is our comfort. No exceptions. Even if you caused your own misery, you can still find comfort in the Lord. In the book of Isaiah we’re told that God comforts us like a mother comforting her child [Isa 66:13]. It is the best kind of comfort. God is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. He knows our hearts, and hence he knows the best way to comfort us.
so that we can comfort those in any trouble – herein lies the second assumption must be acknowledged. Perhaps a bit of a no-brainer, and very similar to the first assumption, but it is something we, self-centred people, often overlook – that the people around us will meet with troubles as well. Sometimes we get so swept up in our own troubles – or indeed, in our own happiness, that we fail to see that the people around us are troubled. Job’s three friends, in the immediacy of the tragedy that fell upon him, rushed to accompany him in an attempt to comfort him of his great misery. Is it easy to comfort anybody? Surely we’ve all been in similar circumstances. What do you say at the hospital, when somebody is so obviously dying? What do you say, at a funeral, where everybody is grieving? What do you say, when somebody has just lost his or her job? When a tragic accident just happened? When somebody has battled through sickness for 10 years and has not seen any hope of healing? As Christians, we often spew out verses that offer hope, promises, declarations of a better future and of healing. And that is good, for indeed, it comforts many to recall the goodness and the faithfulness of God, which surely endures forever. But it is not rare when a person has heard of the same verses for years, same declarations of a better future for years, same promises of healing for years – and yet has seen no hope, seen no healing, seen no better future. Not that they don’t have hope anymore, or that they are bound to misery for life – but I would like to think that words of comfort and acts of comfort can be used in discernment, and different people in different circumstances react to different kinds of comforting in different manners.
with the comfort we ourselves receive from God – what do we need, then? We cannot doubt the heart that wants to comfort – the human heart is, I would like to believe, compassionate. But as much as we’ve given others awkward or inappropriate consolations before, we must have had been on the receiving ends on insincere or insensitive consolations. There is no one-size fits all solution. We’re not God, we don’t always know how to comfort others. But using our experiences in similar troubles, and using God’s comfort for us as an example, let us learn to be sensitive to the pain of others and offer the comfort that we’re capable of.
We started this study with a reference to Job’s three friends – and as much as their original intention of visiting Job was to comfort him and to share in his misery, they applied their comfort in the wrong way and ended up agitating Job much, much more. Yet their original intention was good and cannot be doubted. The passage in Job 2:11-13 is forever a poignant read that forms such a strong image of friendship in my mind. Perhaps sometimes that’s what comfort is, not necessarily about what you say – Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him,because they saw how great his suffering was [Job 2:13]. Let’s learn to find comfort in silence, and learn to offer comfort in ways beyond words.