2 Corinthians 1:5 (my translation), “For just as the sufferings of Christ abound  to us, in the same way through Christ abounds also our comfort.”

What is Paul saying here? He’s just finished asserting that his comfort in the face of affliction is to the end that he might be able to comfort those in affliction with the comfort that he has received from God during his own affliction. So, he’s presented himself as one who is afflicted so that others might be comforted. He then grounds this interpretation of his sufferings with verse 5.

“For just as the sufferings of Christ abound to us, in the same way through Christ abounds also our comfort.”

There are two ways to understand Paul’s logic in verse 5. The first is that he is pointing to Christ as the definitive example of the one who suffers so that others might be comforted. In this view, Paul’s suffering, which yields balm for the Corinthians’ comfort (v.4), is just one instance of the foundational reality that Christ has suffered so that His people might be comforted.

Another–and not wholly unrelated–perspective sees Paul as someone who is being conformed to the image of the crucified and risen Christ so that Paul’s sufferings–and the comfort that flow from them for the Corinthians–are sort of a participation in and manifestation of the death (sufferings) and resurrection (comforts) of the Lord Jesus.

These two concepts are not at odds with one another and there is a lot of overlap in them both. Certainly both are “gloriously true,” and certainly, whichever is intended, what is clear is that Paul understands his sufferings in light of the sufferings of his Lord. Because of that, he knows that all suffering will–as has been invincibly declared in Christ–be turned to the good of the saints and the glory of God.

When we suffer as those who humbly trust and obey Christ (and note only because we trust and obey Christ), we are in some sense being conformed to the image of our Lord and God who endured all suffering on the path of His love-driven obedience to the Father. Becuase He has gone before us, we can be sure that our “crosses” will be rendered bearable by His blood bought presence with us in the midst of hardship. And, just as His affliction was the rod-strike that brought the living water of eternal comfort flowing over us, so too we can trust that–in Him–our sufferings (patiently, faithfully, hopefully endured) will yield Jesus-magnifying (and therefore) God-glorifying comfort in the lives of those who suffer around us.

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