No, it is not just a Christmas song…there is comfort and joy right here in 2 Corinthians 7!
“4 I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy” (emphasis mine).
Now, where do you find comfort? It pops up a lot in 2 Corinthians – chapter 1 was full of it:
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort” (emphasis mine).
Comfort is a chain reaction passed from God to us and then to others. It is also a response to suffering…you cannot be comforted unless you are uncomfortable. But Paul points out that because Christ was comforted in sufferings, we can share in the same comfort and salvation. That is our hope. Back to chapter 7…
“5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us…
12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. 13 Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all” (emphasis mine).
Paul is rested and joyful…because the Corinthians were sad? Looking back at 1 Corinthians, there were many things that Paul challenged the Corinthian church on, including how they picked teams of their favorite preachers and brought worldly lifestyles into church without a challenge. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians that he is comforted because they listened! The Corinthians saw what they were doing and were sad, so they changed. That is the difference between godly sorrow that prompts a changed lifestyle, and worldly sorrow that just prompts sulking.
Comfort is the hinge of this entire book…Paul is writing to pass on the comfort to this church that is still struggling to change by sharing how they comforted Titus who comforted Paul. It’s a chain reaction!
The two other times that Paul talks about comfort in this book refer to the Corinthians comforting each other. Paul called them to comfort the person who had been punished so he would not lose hope, and ended the letter by urging them to comfort each other.
Back to that Christmas refrain…it is a good place to sing about comfort and joy. Jesus is the hinge of our comfort, because we do not have to continue suffering. We are offered relief, hope, encouragement because of what He paid on the cross. So we suffer in this world of sin, but we receive comfort from God who has conquered sin and brought us into renewed relationships with Him and with each other. Praise God!
God, I love that phrase, “But God”. Just when things look the darkest, You come in with an unexpected solution. I so often sulk about my sufferings…the little things that go wrong, and the big troubles looming around me. But there is comfort and rest available! God, thank You for Your overwhelming sacrifice in the face of suffering – You died to conquer death so that we can enjoy new life! And You do not even make us wait…You help us start to rest and be comforted today! Please help me to look to You in suffering, look for comfort from You and the believers around me, and spread tidings of comfort and joy! I am going to go through suffering in this world – so please help me to show people where to find peace and rest in the middle of hard circumstances. By Your strength and for Your glory, Amen!