The following is from Dr. John Phillips explore the book on 2 Cor 1:4-5
“Paul speaks next of the strength of our comfort (2 Cor. 1:4b-5). There is, for instance, its overflow: “that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (1:4b).
“The question is often asked: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The question assumes that the calamities of life are all necessarily bad and that “good” people are really as good as they seem. Neither of the assumptions are necessarily valid. However, we understand why the question is asked. We are living in a world of woe, in a world which is dominated by a hostile and evil super-being from outer space, one who nurtures in his soul a malignant hatred of the human race. The Bible calls him “the prince of this world,” and we know him also as Lucifer and as Satan. It is not surprising, given the malice of this being toward us human beings, that the common lot of man is to face sickness, death, natural disasters, injustice, oppression, wars, famines, pestilences, crushing disappointments, financial ruin, poverty, and a host of similar ills. Very few people go through life unscathed. The bigger question is, why does God allow it at all? When Robinson Crusoe, on his lonely island, saw that mysterious footprint in the sand, he was filled with terror. His first thought was that his island had been invaded by cannibals. Later on, he rescued one of the poor wretches who had been brought to his island by his captors to be devoured. He began to civilize his captive. He sought to instill in his mind the rudiments of Christianity. He explained to his “Man Friday,” as he called him, that the Devil was the author of sin and suffering on this planet. He had previously taught his wild companion that God was the all-powerful Creator of the universe. Man Friday asked a question: “Why God no kill the Devil?” Robinson Crusoe hastily thought of an errand he wanted his pupil to run – to the far end of the island! Millions of people have asked the same question. It is a question with many answers. The apostle advances one here. God allows us to suffer tribulation so that we will flee to Him, the God of all comfort, and so that, having been comforted, enfolded in those everlasting arms, we might, in turn, be able to comfort others. So often, when we try to comfort someone going through deep waters we are all too well aware that our words are hollow and trite although well meant. We ourselves have not sat, as yet, in the house of mourning. It is only when we have been where the sufferer now is that we can truly minister comfort. For true comfort is the overflow of sympathy and understanding. It is tender, loving care from a full heart which has itself been comforted. It is the people who have been in the dark valley, and who have experienced the gracious ministry of the Holy Comforter, who best know what to say and do, or what not to say or do, when ministering to another.
“A preacher friend of mine, whose only son was a model son and a source of joy and pride to his father, was sharing with me once his views about parents with wayward, rebellious children. His conclusions were that such parents must have made some very serious mistakes or set some very bad examples – otherwise, their children would have turned out like his son. His “counseling” and “comfort” to a brokenhearted parent, mourning the waywardness of a rebellious child, must have been very smug and superficial indeed. It would amount, in essence, to the advice Jack Mably gave years ago, in his column in the Chicago Daily News to a distraught parent of a rebellious seventeen-year-old. The mother wanted to know what she should do. Said Jack Mably: “shrink him down to seventeen months and start all over again!” Cold comfort, indeed. Then, too, there is its object: “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ” (1:5). That is to say, the more we share Christ’s suffering, the more we are able to give of his comfort. For the very Godhead itself knows the depth and agony of suffering. An unbeliever turned in rage on a Christian who was trying to minister comfort to him in his bereavement. The unbeliever snarled: “Where was your God when my son was killed?” Quietly the believer replied, “The same place He was when His son was killed.” God is no stranger to suffering. The sufferings of Christ, when He sojourned on earth, were deep and real and prolonged. His first experience was one of pain, for when He was just eight days old, He was circumcised just like other Jewish boys. As he grew up He was misunderstood, at times, even by His own mother (Luke 2:42-49). The Lord had brothers and sisters, the natural children of Joseph and Mary. His family was an ordinary family. There must have been pressures at times, especially as his own brothers and sisters did not believe on Him. The personality of James, particularly, must have been jarring. Doubtless, at school, there were the usual frictions to be encountered. School classrooms and playgrounds can be merciless places – and there is always the school bully. Then, too, it is very likely that Joseph died at a comparatively young age so that the Lord would know about the suffering of a widowed mother and of bereaved children.
“Just before He began His public ministry, He fasted in a desolate wilderness, far from human companionship, for forty days. Thus, He experienced utter loneliness and all the pangs of starvation. Then, in His weakened condition, in a hostile, physical environment, when He was at an utter end of all human resources, he was confronted by Lucifer himself, the wiliest and most wicked of all possible adversaries, who urged upon him a series of diabolically subtle temptations. And so it went on, His disciples, His closest friends and chosen companions, rarely understood what His aims were or even what He was talking about. Indeed, on the very eve of His crucifixion, they were arguing among themselves about which one would be the greatest in the kingdom. His initial popularity, based mostly on His miracles, soon evaporated when the crowds discovered He had no intention of leading a popular revolt against Rome. The religious establishment was against Him from the start. His townsfolk tried to murder Him. The Sanhedrin instituted all kinds of plots against Him. They sent their cleverest men to try to get Him to say something they could use against Him. His brothers thought He was mad and on one occasion even involved His mother in an attempt to restrain Him by force. His enemies accused Him of having a demon, of being a bastard, of being a Samaritan (a term of the highest opprobrium in their opinion), of performing His miracles in the power of Satan, and of being in league with the Devil. Added to all this was His anguish of soul over the horror of having to die as the world ’s sin-bearer. He wept His heart out in Gethsemane while His closest friends, who had promised to keep prayer vigil with Him, snored away the few remaining hours. He was betrayed by one of His disciples with a treacherous kiss. He was manhandled and mauled, falsely accused, unjustly condemned and sentenced by a cowardly governor to a terrible death. They spat on Him. They scourged Him. They blindfolded and buffeted Him. They crowned Him with thorns and arrayed Him in mocking purple, then led Him away to a skull-shaped hill to be nailed to a cross of wood. He suffered all the agonies of death by torture, for death by crucifixion was the most fiendish way ever devised to execute a man. There was the excruciating pain, the torment of heat and flies and thirst.
“There was the mockery of the rabbis and the rabble. Even a couple of dying thieves, crucified alongside of Him, cursed and blasphemed Him. Forsaken by men and abandoned by God, He endured the ultimate horror of being “made sin” for us – He, who knew no sin. And when it was all over, He tasted the last dregs of the cup of suffering by dying. Such was Christ’s suffering. If we have to suffer, we can be sure of one thing. He knows what it’s like. He’s already been there. Indeed, in a very real sense, we are simply sharing Christ’s suffering. There is more to it than that, however. It is not so much suffering in general which is in view here although, of course, the Lord is well able to succor us out of His vast experience of suffering, in all of life’s woes. The suffering Paul experienced was because of his commitment to Christ. The Lord had said to His disciples: “Ye shall indeed drink of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized with” (Matt. 20:23). As Paul’s union with the Lord was the source of his sufferings, so it was the source of His comfort.” Dr. John Phillips