Afflictions, all of them, will be met with God’s comfort. The word affliction speaks to an internal pressure that feels like we have no way out – no options. It stands in contrast to another Greek word for pressure that is caused by external circumstances. In thinking about this difference, sin is definitely an affliction that comes with but one way out. And the comfort of knowing God is faithful to forgive and cleanse cannot be overestimated – or comprehended for that matter. How would one go on?
Then, as only God can envision, we who have received comfort are given the ability and task of offering comfort to others. We did not have to experience the exact same affliction though we commonly use this idea to somehow justify and give purpose to our sorrows. Rather, what we have to offer is not our experience of pain – it is our experience of COMFORT.
When this passage speaks of the sufferings of Christ it is the word for “passion”. Passion is the capacity and privilege to experience strong feelings, like agony, ardent desire, suffering, etc. It must be the ability to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Rom. 12)
This does not come naturally to me – this empathy. It is certainly not that I have failed to experience affliction. Nor is it that I have missed being comforted by God. I think it is the walls of self-protection that allow me to stand safely away from feeling someone else’s pain. Jesus felt our pain. He sat with us in it. He connected to us without thought to his own comfort. Comfort goes out when we let the other person in.
Empathy – is something God is growing in me. It’s slow and intentional work. But like never before, I want to be a comfort courier.
Sufferings (Christ’s sufferings) – passion – the capacity to feel strong emotion, like suffering. Properly, the capacity and privilege of experiencing strong feeling; felt, deep emotion, like agony, passion/ardent desire, suffering, etc. 3804 /páthēma (“strong feeling”) includes affliction (suffering), which should always (ideally) result in knowing God’s glory – like going through difficulties (persecution, etc.) in faith. Note the -ma suffix, emphasizing the end-result (experiencing strong feeling).]