First, I want us to think about the true assertions made about life in these verses. These assertions deal with suffering and comfort in suffering:
- It is normal and even expected for Christians to suffer in this world of sin.
- God is the God of all comfort. All comfort comes from Him.
- God wants Christians to be comforted by Him.
- God also wants to pass comfort along to others through the ones whom He comforts, so that the comforted Christian becomes the conduit through whom divine comfort flows to others. However, this is processed and accomplished in such a way so that the hurting person receiving comfort from a comforted Christian turns to the Lord for more comfort. All true comfort comes from God Himself!
Second, I think it is vital that we understand that this passage is not teaching that we should turn to people for comfort when we hurt. This is the common mistake made by many people when they hurt. Many people unfortunately turn to other people when they turn. Why do we do this?
- Because it is easy to do.
- Because we falsely think that is where real comfort is found.
- Because when we turn to people for comfort it is an attempt (perhaps inadvertent and unintentional) to pass off to others the responsibility that we bear for our own decisions and comfort. Turning to others takes the pressure off of us.
If we turn to people for comfort when we hurt rather than to the Lord, then we will never grow in our understanding of life's depths. The richness of spiritual truth that could have been learned in the vortex of suffering, will never be perceived if we turn to people instead of the Lord. If we turn to people for comfort instead of the Lord, we will never truly experience comfort, and we will never be able to comfort others with the comfort God gives to us.
Does God want to comfort His hurting people? Sure. Does God want comforted Christians to pass that comfort along to others who hurt? Again, absolutely right. But let's remember that if by sharing God's comfort we turn people to ourselves rather than to God, then we do them a disservice, and they will not have learned to be comforted by God.