2 Corinthians 1.1-11
The beginning of St. Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth contains one of the most eloquent, beautiful, pointed treatments of suffering and comfort anywhere in Holy Scripture. It is not easy reading, however, because the Apostle's language goes round and round. It can be especially difficult to follow in very literal translations, like the NKJV and ESV. Here are the central verses as translated in the CSB:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will also share in the comfort (2 Cor 1.3-7, CSB).
Here is the same passage, a bit more simply, as translated in God's Word Translation:
Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who is compassionate and the God who gives comfort. He comforts us whenever we suffer. That is why whenever other people suffer, we are able to comfort them by using the same comfort we have received from God. Because Christ suffered so much for us, we can receive so much comfort from him. Besides, if we suffer, it brings you comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, we can effectively comfort you when you endure the same sufferings that we endure. We have confidence in you. We know that as you share our sufferings, you also share our comfort (2 Cor 1.3-7, GW)
The message from each is clearly the same. God grants us comfort in our suffering, and as a result, we are able to comfort others as they suffer through the overflow of comfort we have received in Christ. This is a great encouragement! At the same time, there is an implicit point that we must not miss. As Ambrosiaster wrote, "It is clear that Christ himself, for whose sake we are suffering, is present with us, consoling us and rescuing us from trouble by his divine intervention" (Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Paul's Epistles). What is often missed or glossed over is any discussion of the means by which Christ comforts us. We see in the latter part of the passage that we will be used of God to bring comfort to others--i.e. God's comfort to others comes through us as means. What we tend to miss is that God's comfort to us will typically come to us through others as means.
Oftentimes we wait expectantly for God to perform some earth-shattering act to comfort us, but we must remember that God uses means to accomplish his work in the world. As he has promised to be present in words, water, bread, and wine, (i.e. Word and Sacraments) so he has promised to be present in the consoling presence of other believers, both TO us and THROUGH us. Simply because God doesn't come to us in the miraculous and the spectacular doesn't mean that his comforting presence and grace are any less real, active, or powerful. Be on the lookout for grace coming through the mundane! Thanks be to God!