Chapter 1:5-11 (ESV) - For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
Question to consider: According to Paul, why does God allow suffering in our lives?
If you’ve been led to believe that God never gives us more than we can handle, I think Paul would disagree with you here. Interestingly enough, Paul’s statement comes before the shipwreck he experienced on the way to Rome so if he thought he’d known despair when he wrote this, he likely would have revised this statement later on. The truth of the matter is that God never gives us more than He can handle, but we frequently experience things that we only can get through by relying on God’s comforting, sovereign hand.
Does God enjoy watching us suffer? Certainly not. Paul wrote that the intention is for us to rely on “God who raises the dead” rather than ourselves. Throughout scripture we see God’s sovereignty and His goodness. The more we discover about God’s sovereignty and goodness, the easier it is for us to put our faith in Him to deliver and comfort us.
My understanding of the world increased dramatically when I became a father. There are decisions that parents make for the good of their children that are not entirely appreciated by them at the time. They simply don’t have the capacity to know what they don’t know about life and the world around them. When I put myself in the place of a child and think about God as my heavenly father, it’s easier to find comfort in God’s love for me during difficult times.
We must continually remind each other that God will ultimately deliver us from all of the diseases and perils of this world at the resurrection. Paul proved this in his first inspired epistle to the Corinthians. At the resurrection, we will be able to look back on our life in gratitude when we see how God used our difficult times to refine our faith and to bring comfort and salvation to others.
Paul’s final emphasis here is on prayer. I tend to be more concerned with God’s revealed word to us rather than submitting my petitions to Him. However, it is apparent from this word that we should be diligent to pray for others and that the prayers of many will result in God’s help and blessing. This is one of those ideas where regardless of whether we can understand how this happens, we should do it in faith, knowing that God desires good things for His children.
Dear heavenly father, we thank You for being trustworthy, good, and true. Help us to put our faith in Your goodness as we face difficulties in life. Remind us to pray for one another frequently and to be Your instruments of help and comfort in this world. Amen.