Today’s Chocolate: Green & Black’s Organic 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: 2 Corinthians 1
Time’s getting tight right now, but I’ve got to write this post. And the longer it takes to get to it, the fewer options I have for how to approach the first chapter of 2 Corinthians. There’s no real time to research the historical background and chronology of the book, or to look up cross-references in Acts and figure out what Paul is talking about when he talks about his plans to visit the Corinthian church on the way both to and from Macedonia (15-16). At this point, my best bet is to dig something up and get it out there. At least I have the good sense not to introduce the chapter with a parody of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” centered around the line “Back to Corinthians.”
Sometimes Paul’s writing isn’t immediately apparent in its application, whether for cultural context or the complexity of his argument or whatever other reasons. But his introductory words here relate to a basic human need: comfort. In fact, he uses the word “comfort” ten times in the space of five verses, as if he had a bet with Timothy as to how many times he could fit it into a single paragraph. But when Paul tells the Corinthians, “We were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life” (8), I’m inclined to think his reason for focusing on comfort are not so trivial.
Affliction and suffering are also on Paul’s mind. As human beings, why do we need comfort? Because we suffer. Paul explains:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (3-4)
Even as Paul receives comfort from God, he realizes that the comfort he receives isn’t just for him. God wants to use him as a vehicle to spread hope and relief to others. God doesn’t get involved in our lives just to take away our pain; he wants to take our perspective outside of ourselves, bring us into a broader world, and deliver comfort through us to a humanity suffering from self-inflicted wounds.
And Jesus Christ is at the center of Paul’s understanding of comfort and affliction. He tells the Corinthians: “For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ” (5). There’s no way around suffering: as humans, we’re going to have to hurt. We might as well shoulder the sufferings of Christ rather than the sufferings of selfishness, because at least the sufferings of Christ come with Christ’s comfort.
So I think about Jesus’ sufferings, his agony in the garden, his crucifixion. Paul understands that as his followers, we’re going to have to walk through suffering too. And I think about my American comfort, my world where the most I’ll suffer on any given day is usually while doing pull-ups on my chin-up bar in the garage.
I wonder if I’m doing it wrong.