II Corinthians 1: 3-7
“Praise 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 as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is experienced in your 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 share in the comfort.”
It is wrong when believers are taught to bear their suffering through gritted teeth without any comfort and to count it all joy when there is suffering in their life. The last part is true, we should count it all joy when we face diverse sufferings but we are not without comfort. God comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort others who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves have received from God. When we understand what the purpose of affliction in our life is, we will understand how exactly God comforts us when we face them.
It is fruitless to go through affliction without knowing there’s a reason for it, so why do we go through afflictions? First of all, let’s have a slight paradigm shift in the way we interpret affliction. When we read, or hear the words ‘affliction’, ‘tribulation’ or ‘suffering’ for Christ, we should not think ‘punishment’ or associate them with one of those negative interpretations that the traditional culture of the church seem to promote, you know things like penance and all that. When we come across those words, we must think and associate them with the same positive interpretations we give to things like a test that qualifies us for something, or a price we pay for something really worthwhile, etc.
The purpose of affliction is always to bring about something better. As the bible describes it that “the glory of the latter will be greater than the glory of the former” so that affliction is God’s way of “working out an eternal glory for you”. Eternal weight of glory doesn’t mean glory that you will enjoy when you get to heaven, it means glory that has the name of God on it, one whose origin cannot be mistaken. It means that when God brings you through that trial, what will come out of that experience will make people say, “This is the work of God.” You will be as a shining light, and men will glorify your Father in heaven.
Afflictions are the fires of purification that God uses to remove ungodly parts in us just like gold passing through fire. It is a necessary part of our Christian walk and are actually more valuable than any blessings we can receive. It shows we are children of God and it shows that God wants and sees us fit to go through them as His children
Now that we know the purpose of affliction, then how does God comfort us in affliction? Simply put, He comforts us by getting us through the affliction. God’s plan is to get us through afflictions not out of them. No testing time is enjoyable, but what we get when we pass the test makes all the pain go away. This is what the scripture refers to when it talks about the pregnant woman coming into labor. Labor pains are not funny, but the joy of seeing that new baby cannot be compared to anything, it’s simply out of this world. When we are facing afflictions, we are like a woman in labor, who goes through pain but soon after successfully gives birth and achieves the purpose of the labor pain. After affliction there is a result, this might be a character change, or a personal improvement, but whatever it is “the glory of the latter is greater than that of the former”
Now let us look at why God comforts us through afflictions. We have seen that God’s way is always by example, we see from the life of Christ that He led by example. He put on flesh, the very same flesh we have and He suffered everything we as believers suffer or will suffer, so He can be a great and sympathetic high priest. As believers He also uses us as effective comforters for other believers who are suffering afflictions that we have gone through and have been comforted through. This is how He comforts others, through us.
When you have experienced affliction and allowed God to comfort you through it then you are able to comfort others passing through similar experiences. Those who have not gone through any pain, have no comfort to give. A woman who has not delivered a baby before has no advice to give a pregnant woman in labor. That’s why in life, people who have not been through things like this usually can’t help you in times of affliction, but in fact they might even make you worse.
Because we are the children of God we share in the suffering of Christ in order that we may also share in His Glory. Christ learned obedience through suffering and so we as believers must also suffer through afflictions so that we are able to learn obedience and to become godlier.
One thing to note is this; comfort is only found when you’ve gone through, when you’ve delivered that child. If you stop before that, you will die in pain. This is why a lot of believers who are not patient enough for God to finish with them in the delivery room die in their afflictions. What I mean by “die in their affliction” is that they lose faith in God, and become cynical.
When going through afflictions make sure you maintain a thankful and expectant attitude through it. It is not a time to fight those whom you feel are responsible, it is not a time to plot revenge or things like that, it is not a time to be sorrowful, it is a time to patiently wait for God with a thankful heart, expecting the ‘child’ or the purpose of the affliction to come forth with joy.
It is sure that as every believer goes through affliction, every believer also has the comfort of God available to them. Affliction should be seen as God’s way of bringing us into perfection, of learning how to comfort others, because if we suffer affliction, we will also be comforted and when we have successfully gone through the affliction, we will be in the position to comfort others. Halleluyah!
James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”
Hebrew 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin”
Romans 8:17 “and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him”
Hebrew 5:8-10 “Though He was God’s Son; He learned obedience through what He suffered. After He was perfected, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him, and He was declared by God a high priest in the order of Melchizedek”
Psalm 16:11 “You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures”
Temitope Talabi is a founding member of The Trent Voices currently reside in Austin, TX. She graduated with a PharmD from Texas Southern University in Houston, TX. She works as a community pharmacist and spends her spare time writing to build and encourage others through the word of God. Temitope is also currently working on a series of self-help books created to empower people to take charge of their health and wellness, the first of which is scheduled to be released early next year.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.