2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
On verses 3-4: Highlight the words "in all our troubles". God makes His comfort available to us in all our troubles, no matter how big or how small. So in your discomfort, run to God for comfort. He is the God of all comfort. And remember this: the reason He comforts us is not for our benefit alone, but so that we can comfort others who are troubled (v4). Who better to comfort those going through the pain of losing a child than someone who has lost a child and found hope in Jesus Christ? Who better to help those going through the pain of divorce, or cancer, or abuse, than someone who went through that same pain but has experienced new hope in Jesus Christ? You may find that your greatest ministry will have something to do with the greatest pain you've experienced in life. Praise God! He never wastes a hurt!
2 Corinthians 1:8 (NIV)
8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.
On verse 8: What were the hardships Paul and his team suffered in Asia which caused them to be under such great pressure, far beyond their ability to endure? What hardship caused them to think they were going to die? Some scholars speculate that it may have been persecution, an illness, an interpersonal conflict, or some other event. But these are at best educated guesses. The fact is that we don't know what hardships Paul is referring to because Paul doesn't tell us specifically. And maybe that's a good thing, even a "God thing". For if we knew what specific hardship Paul went through, we would be focused on the hardship, rather than what Paul wants his readers to focus on, which is God's strength in the midst of all our weaknesses, God's comfort in all our troubles (v4) and God's faithfulness to deliver us from all situations that feel impossibly difficult. If we knew what specific hardship Paul went through, we might be tempted to think, "Well, Paul's situation is different from my situation." We might use our knowledge of Paul's specific problem to distance ourselves from Paul. But I believe the Holy Spirit kept Paul from telling us what his specific hardship was so that we wouldn't differentiate ourselves from Paul, but like Paul be encouraged to know that, no matter what problem we face today, God is able to help us, strengthen us, comfort us and deliver us.
Are you going through hardship today? Are you under great pressure? Are you feeling like the situation is more than you can bear, even to the point that you feel like you're going to die or want to die? May the Holy Spirit use today's passage to comfort you, to remind you that God allows great hardship in your life not to be cruel to you and not because He doesn't care, but so as to reveal His power through your weakness. God has allowed that problem in your life so that like Paul you can say, "But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead" (v9)". Your test is a testimony in the making.
2 Corinthians 1:10 (NIV)
10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us...
On verse 10: "Because He has...He will". Because Paul experienced God's deliverance from great hardship in the past, Paul had confidence that God would continue to deliver him in the future. In the same way, when you're uncertain and fearful of the future, think back to God's faithfulness in the past to give you confidence in the present. Satan wants us to forget all the ways God has helped us in the past so that we can wallow in joylessness, hopelessness and despair today. It's no wonder David writes in Psalm 103:2, "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." It's because when you remind yourself of God's faithfulness in the past, it encourages you to put your faith and confidence in Him today, that He will deliver you from every trial you face now and in the future.
What hardships has God delivered you from in the past? Think of one and pray: "God, just as you delivered me from that past hardship, thank You that You will deliver me from this hardship I face today."
2 Corinthians 1:11 (NIV)
11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
On verse 11: Prayer is a game-changer. When we pray, we give God room to do what we cannot do ourselves. Be a person of prayer who prays often both privately and with others. There are people waiting to be helped by your prayers!
And here's my prayer for you: Today in Jesus' name may you experience God's comfort in your pain, God's strength in your weakness, and God's power in and through your prayers. The best is yet to come!