Inspired by 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
“For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:5 (NRSV)
No one wants to suffer, yet suffering is a part of life, even for the faithful Christian. Obediently following the will of the Lord guarantees no protection from suffering, and in fact increases the likelihood of suffering, since by following Christ we put ourselves at odds with the values of the world. As a result, many Christians take comfort in reminding themselves that Christ himself suffered on our account, and when we suffer for the sake of the faith we’re sharing in his sufferings.
But such assurances can seem like no more than empty words when we’re in the midst of our own suffering, especially suffering that has nothing at all to do with standing strong in the faith. Much suffering is simply a result of being human in a fallen world. At such times we feel isolated and alone, separated from the love of God and the concern of other people by a deep and wide chasm. And at such times we care not for the sufferings of Christ, but for his consolation.
The word we translate as ‘consolation’ is the Greek parakaleo: para (beside) and kaleo (to call or invite). The consolation of Christ is no awkward pat on the shoulder attempting to give comfort; the consolation of Christ is Christ standing with us in our suffering, sharing it with us, bearing it with us, and assuring us that we are not alone. And because we share in Christ’s suffering and he shares in ours, we also share in his resurrection. We know that even though he suffered death on the cross, he also defeated death and received new life, a life which he gladly shares with us.
No matter how alone you may feel in your suffering, know that God in Christ is with you. He has invited you to stand with him, and he will take your suffering upon himself and raise you up to new life in him.
Let us pray. God of consolation, you have called us to stand by your side. Comfort us with your presence, that we may know your victory over all that afflicts us. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.