This is probably one of my favorite passages in scripture. Paul writes,
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. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. (3-5)
Sometimes, we wonder through our trials and sufferings if God really cares. If he really does love us. But here Paul calls God the Father of compassion. I like the ESV which translates it “the Father of mercies.” In other words, when God sees us, he’s not indifferent to us. Rather, he looks upon us with compassion and mercy. I think about Jesus when he saw the people of Israel hurting and in need. Time and again, the gospels tell us that he looked upon them with compassion. And in this, he was a perfect reflection of his Father.
More, Paul tells us that he is the God of all comfort. So not only does he feel compassion for us, but he reaches down to touch us. I think of the time that Jesus dealt with a leper that came to him one day (Matthew 8). Not only did Jesus look upon him with compassion, but he actually reached out and touched him. This man probably hadn’t experienced human touch for years because others had feared catching his disease. But in Jesus’ touch, the man found comfort and healing.
And though sufferings may abound in our lives now, God’s comfort will abound toward us even more (verse 5, ESV).
Paul spoke from experience. He himself went through intense suffering, more than he could handle on his own. I have heard and actually taught many times that God will never let us go through more than we can handle. But as I reflect on this passage, it seems to me that while this is a true statement, it’s incomplete. God often does let us go through more than we can handle…in our own strength. He stretches us beyond what we can handle to our breaking point. Why?
Paul tells us.
But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (9)
In other words, God will put us in these situations to teach us that we can’t make it through this life alone. But if we rely on him, he is the God who is so powerful he can raise the dead. And in the hopelessness of our situation, by his grace, he can pull us out and give us new hope and life.
As God would tell Paul later,
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (II Corinthians 12:9)
And as we go through these trials and ultimately look back on them, we’ll see that God was there all along. Then as we face future trials, we can have hope knowing that the same God that delivered us before will deliver us again. Paul learned this, saying with confidence,
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. (10)
How about you? Are you going through trials that you can’t see an end to? Are you feeling stretched beyond the breaking point? Remember that God does care and he hasn’t abandoned you. So let us not rely on ourselves, but lean on his strength and power. And by his grace he will bring you through.