Every person goes through hard times. Followers of Jesus go through an extra layer of difficulty because of their allegiance to him. Besides \’normal\’ suffering like disease, job loss, relationship-based heartbreak, and the like, disciples of Christ suffer in their resistance to temptation and due to the social pressure that comes from those who are not disciples. Often times suffering leads to confusion and / or despair, but should it? in 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 the apostle Paul provides vital perspective on suffering that can help you endure it with a more positive spirit.
God will take care of you.
I guess this is Christianity 101 and may seem like just a hollow truism to those who have not experienced God\’s provision, but this is true and important. Paul reminds his readers that God is merciful and provides comfort (i.e. supportive strength during times of difficulty). Paul goes on to remind us of what God did for Christ in the Resurrection. If God, in his comforting mercy, took care of Christ through the greatest difficulty of all–death–then you can be sure he will take care of you through \”all of your troubles,\” whatever they may be.
Your burdens may help lift someone else\’s.
The entire point of 2 Corinthians 1 (and actually all of the letter of 2 Corinthians) is that Paul\’s difficulties were for the good of his brothers and sisters in Corinth. His suffering provided for their comfort, his difficulties were for their good, his burdens were for their relief. Sometimes our suffering in the moment directly aids someone else (e.g. mothers taking care of babies, first responders entering a burning building, a friend or family member bailing you out of financial ruin). But in this passage Paul says that hard times help prepare us to help others in the future: \”[God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God\” (2 Corinthians 1:4). The next time you\’re experiencing a hardship in service to the Lord, try to think less about how bad it is for you and focus more on how this can prepare you to help someone else through whatever trial they may face in the future.
Trials teach you to trust God more and hope for something better.
Every disappointment in the human experience can be traced back to trusting and hoping in the limited strength of things of the world that always fail to satisfy our needs. I don’t know what you look to for a full and thriving life—romantic interest, financial security, career, a sports team, family, in-the-moment pleasures, a religious organization—but whatever that may be, it will fail you (if it hasn’t already). When you face difficulties and disappointments the benefit is that it teaches you to look past the things of the World and to look up to the One who rules the Heaven and Earth. (See: Ecclesiastes 1-3, 11-12) But the trick here is that you have to actually turn to God, listening to his guidance in Scripture and handing over your heart and mind to him in prayer. If you do that then you can enjoy life with the perspective Paul had when he said, “Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us” (2 Corinthians 1:9-10).
If you suffer in the right way, something cosmic happens.
If you really and truly live for Christ then your life will be challenging and, in some respects, disappointing at times. Resisting temptations to do things you used to enjoy so much, facing socially ostracization because of your devotion to the Lord, being overlooked for the promotions others receive because they don’t share your selflessness and integrity—all these sufferings are a burden. Now maybe the things we have already said will provide you enough fuel for your soul to keep doing what is right regardless of the suffering, but if it you need something else to consider then pay attention to what Paul says at the beginning of this teaching. His premise to all of this talk of suffering, helping (providing “comfort”) to others, and trusting God more and the world less is, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3), and then he ends this section by saying that the beauty of his suffering was that “many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many” (2 Corinthians 1:11). Do you see what Paul is saying? His suffering wasn’t really about his own growth. It wasn’t about helping others. It was about God being honored in the life of someone who stayed true to him through it all. Both in Heaven and on Earth God is proven to be worth everything when people like you and me stick with him no matter how much it costs. This is why we suffer with Christ—to bless God’s name and to prove to the Universe that he is worth every breath of our body, every beat of our heart, every corner of our soul. “Blessed be God,” indeed.