For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:5)
Many people feel they must exaggerate their hardships. For them, nothing small ever happens; every inconvenience is a heavy cross to bear, and they suppose they bear it for Jesus. The Apostle Paul was not that kind of man; he spoke about his suffering reluctantly and in understated terms. So, when Paul wrote, the sufferings of Christ abound in us, he meant it. Paul had a life filled with suffering including beatings, whippings, stoning, imprisonments, shipwrecks, hunger, thirst, sleeplessness, and more (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Yet, Paul knew that all his sufferings were really the sufferings of Christ.
It’s a striking statement. We almost want to correct the Apostle: “Paul, those are your sufferings, not the sufferings of Christ.” Nevertheless, Paul’s life was so completely identified in Jesus that if he was blessed, it was the blessing of Christ. If he suffered, they were the sufferings of Christ. Not every hardship we face can be thought of as the sufferings of Christ. If a believer is in sin, foolish, or unloving towards others and they hurt for it, that isn’t suffering for following the way of Jesus. Peter knew the distinction between the two kinds of suffering when he wrote that we should not suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. (1 Peter 4:15-16)
Paul knew something about the glory of God in suffering. In fact, Paul knew both sides well: the sufferings and the consolation. He could say, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Because Paul’s sufferings were the sufferings of Christ, Jesus was not distant from Paul in any hardship. He was right there, identifying with the apostle, and comforting Paul. It seems like the hotter the day, the greater the dew at night. Even so, the hotter the time of trouble, the greater the dews of refreshing come to God’s people.
We can count on it: when sufferings abound, then consolation also abounds. Jesus is there to bring comfort, if we will receive it. In fact, God is called the God of all comfort in this very chapter (2 Corinthians 1:3). God has all kinds of comfort for His people in all kinds of hardships.
So, the principle stands: Our consolation also abounds through Christ. God may allow situations in our life where our only consolation is found through Christ. Sometimes we think the only consolation is found in a change of circumstances, but God wants to console us right in our difficult circumstances, and to do it through Christ. Jesus told us about the same principle in John 16:33: In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
Are sufferings abounding? Be bold in seeking God for abounding consolation.