By Sam Greer Senior
Pastor, Red Bank Baptist Church, Chattanooga
Focal Passage: II Corinthians 1:3-14
Webster’s Dictionary defines empathy as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being senstive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience” of someone else. Based on that definition, psychologist Douglas LaBier, feels many Americans are catastrophically unempathetic and suffer from what he calls Empathy Deficit Disorder (EDD). Rather than empathizing with those who need to be comforted, LaBier argues that many in our American society respond to the pain of others with a “Don’t bother me with your pain” type of attitude.
In II Corinthians 1:3-14, Paul reminded his hearers that God doesn’t suffer from Empathy Deficit Disorder. Mankind may suffer from EDD; but God is aware of all of your affliction and He cares! Paul offers us three realities about the God of all comfort.
First, God comforts us. Paul can’t help but begin this text with a blessing and praise directed to God (II Corinthians 1:3). He recognized that it is God who comforted Paul in his affliction and it is God who comforts all believers in affliction. So many people search for comfort by getting under their comfort blanket, eating their comfort food and staying in their comfort zone. The Bible says, however, that God is the source of all comfort (v. 3). God is willing, able and ready to comfort you! Rely upon God right now!
Second, God does not comfort us to make us comfortable. God is interested in comforting us, but not for the purpose of making us comfrotable. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that we must become comfortable with being uncomfortable (v. 5). God never promises to remove all of our affliction in this life, but He does promise to comfort us in and through our affliction.
Is Paul able to speak about being comforted in and through suffering? Did Paul experience any suffering? Paul shared his resume of suffering and affliction in II Corinthians 11:24-27. After Paul’s list of sufferings, he shared his constant concern for all the churches. God’s comfort didn’t make Paul comfortable, but it made Paul comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Third, God comforts us so that we can comfort others. God doesn’t comfort us to make us comfortable. God comforts us so that we can comfort others. Paul argued that God extended His comfort to Paul so that Paul could extend God’s comfort to others (II Corinthians 1:4). As followers of Christ, our affliction will be comforted by God the Holy Spirit. God’s comfort to us then enables us to comfort others who are going through any and all affliction. Afflictions are different. God is the same. All afflictions are comforted by the One God of all comfort.
One year ago this month, my wife Tonya was diagnosed with Appendiceal and Peritoneal Carcinoma. One in a million people are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year. Our journey through this rare affliction took us to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center where Tonya had a 12-hour surgery to remove the cancer and receive heated chemotherapy. After a successful surgery, Tonya had some complications and months later another surgery. Over the past year, affliction has become real and relevant to our family. We are still on this journey of affliction and have many scans to come, but Tonya has no cancer at this time. Our family can say to your family: God is the God of all comfort, including ours!