Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 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. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
God is not just a philosophical principle or a necessary postulate for an intellectual system. We must never reduce him to this. He is an active person and an ever-present power. He produces concrete effects in our beings and in our lives. He is ready to comfort, to teach, and to strengthen us. And as we receive from him, we turn to comfort, to teach, and to strengthen others. Each Christian can directly approach God and receive from him, and then transmit his grace to build up the church. As Paul writes, “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
Paul and his companions received God’s comfort not for some minor trauma. He says that the things they faced were beyond their ability to endure, so that they despaired even of life. “But,” he explains,” this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” Elsewhere he notes that the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. Of course the kingdom is in word in the sense that it is associated with intelligible doctrines, but he means that the kingdom is not just talk – it is backed by a power that defies death and despair. The gospel comes with invincible hope and comfort.
The apostle did not receive help from man’s counsel, which espouses a false view of the world, a distorted version of reality. But God tells us his interpretation of the world and of our circumstances, and grants us an understanding of his plan and our place in it. Man sustains himself by imagining that he possesses limitless potential, but God teaches us to trust in his resurrection power. God’s Spirit applies his word in our hearts; he produces a stability in our thoughts and feelings, and he cures our hurts and fears. Non-Christians love the world, but the world drives them insane. They attempt to cure themselves, but their program fails, and they drown in useless counsel, medicine, alcohol, and destructive habits and distractions.
God not only comforts us, but he teaches us and empowers us to comfort others, to lift them up from their fear, pain, and sadness, and to help them become productive citizens of his kingdom. In Christ, you do not face troubles in vain. Learn to receive from God, fight for victory by his power, and then help someone else.