God is the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). But what does this mean? If we want to get to the message that God has for us in the pages of his book, we must not read the Bible passively. Instead, we should formulate questions about what its statements mean. Then we should let the text itself supply the answers.
That God is the God of all comfort must mean that he is able to supply all that is needed to take away the hurt inflicted by any misfortune, loss or catastrophe. God is able to do this so completely that his comfort leaves nothing to be desired. The word “all” necessarily implies this meaning.
This is surely encouraging news. In view of all the anguish and heartache that life can bring, everyone would find such news most welcome. Good news it is, but some may ask, “Is it really true?” It would be highly presumptuous for any man to speak for God and say that he is the God of all comfort. Such good news is true only if God himself declares it.
When Paul affirmed that God is the God of all comfort, he knew that he had no right to make such a statement by himself. But, he said, my authority is of God, who has qualified me to be his minister and spokesman (2 Corinthians 3:5f.). So in saying that God is the God of all comfort, Paul was simply repeating what God himself had said.
But how does God make good this promise to comfort us fully, despite the affliction that may befall us? For one thing, God promises that for every testing, he will make a way of escape so that we can bear it. When dismaying news comes, when a fiery dart from Satan strikes, our first impulse may be to despair and say there is no way we can go on. But “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the trial will also provide a way of escape, so that you can bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). For a time we perhaps cannot even imagine what might happen that would enable us to go on. But God is able to do exceedingly abundant above even what we can imagine, and in due time he will cause something to happen so that we can bear it.
Another way God makes good his promise to comfort us fully is that he exercises miraculous control over events which are out of our control in order to bring peace to the heart. David said, “On the day that I called, you answered me; you increased my strength of soul (1 Samuel 30:6). He turned to God in this time of great trouble, and he experienced how God increased his strength of soul. Then God specifically directed him so that he and his soldiers were able to recover their families and possessions.
Romans 15:4 tells us that through patience and comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope. During the last years of his life, David Livingstone saw the trails he had opened up in central Africa being used not so much by missionaries to establish churches there as by Portuguese slavers to take people to other lands to do forced labor. He worked in every way to stop the slave trade by exposing it through his writings and by appealing to his government. But still he saw gangs of Africans being led away from their homes in chains. His heart was broken. His friends recounted how he spent hours each day reading the Scriptures. He was in the midst of circumstances which, by themselves, brought only anguish to his soul. But through what God had promised in the Scriptures, he found that which gave him patience and hope so that he could endure his trial.
Daniel P. Fuller