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.
Death is certainly a natural part of life but that doesn't make it easy. When tragedy happens or even when it's an expected death due to ongoing illness, we are left to mourn, grieve, and miss our loved one when they pass away. Trials, tribulations, heartache, loss, death, and almost everything in between can leave us needing comfort. Death for sure can bring things to a grinding halt and really put things in perspective for us. The arguments, the trials of life, they don't seem to matter as much when eternity's door comes knocking.
In those times when there is grieving, we desire comfort for our hurting hearts. 1 Corinthians 12:26 states:
And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Further, in Romans chapter 12 it states:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
The church plays a vital role in the comforting and healing process of those who have experienced loss and as the verse in 1 Corinthians indicates we are to treat it as our own loss even if it is not in our immediate family. For when one member of the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer and we should all mourn and weep together over that loss. In fact, sometimes the most comfort can come when not one word is spoken but a person simply is there to be a crying shoulder or a firm presence during times of loss.
The chapter in 1 Corinthians is speaking of the unity in the body that needs to be there especially in relation to the use of spiritual gifts as that is the primary context. However, it should also be noted that when this unity in Christ exists in the body then a very natural outpouring of that unity will be exactly what 1 Corinthians 12:26 says and that is that when "one member suffers, all the members suffer" (NASB). If we are one body then when the hand hurts it affects the whole body. When the foot hurts it can and should affect the whole body. Every part of the body is equally important and we should treat each other as so.
We need comfort in those most trying times. We desire comfort. So, where and from whom do we get our comfort?
1. Who do we get our comfort from?
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.
God is to be blessed because He is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. I'm so glad we have such a gracious and merciful and compassionate and comforting God. Sometimes we will be beyond strength, we may be burdened beyond what we think we can take. Sometimes all we will have is God and He is enough. He is the God of all comfort!
2. Why are we comforted?
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. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
We are comforted so that we can comfort others who are hurting with the same comfort that we receive from God. God comforts us in our afflictions with His great power, mercy, and comfort and He doesn't do it just so that we would be comforted, although that is on His mind as well. No, He comforts us so that we also will comfort others with the same comfort that we ourselves have received from God. To the extent that we suffer and live for Christ and experience all of those things that can bring us sorrow in this life, we will be better qualified to comfort other Christians because we will have experienced the very comfort of God in our own life.
There are many people in this world that need comfort. There are many who have been comforted. We need to take our experience in being comforted and take it to others so that they can be comforted as well. This is a vital ministry in the church that often gets neglected. Our duty to comfort and love our fellow Christians can be easily overlooked or we may not see it as vital but it is extremely vital. A Christians spirit can be very negatively affected by tragedy, sorrow, and death, and it is very important that we take the comfort of God to them.
3. How do we comfort each other?
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.
We do not grieve the same way in which unbelievers do. Unbelievers have zero basis for hope in the death of their loved ones. In fact, they have an absence of hope when their loved ones die. It must be a very frightening and sorrow filled thought to have a loved one die without Christ. In Christ, we have a hope that cannot be destroyed or removed, so we should seek all the more to preach the gospel, to see more people saved and come to know this same hope that we have in Christ Jesus.
For is we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 NASB)
Death is not final. There is an afterlife. You will either spend eternity in the blessed presence of the Lord or separated from Him in the lake of fire. Death for the Christian has no hold over us since we are in Christ. Jesus conquered death with His sacrifice on the cross and when He returns, He will come with our loved ones who have gone on before us, if we are alive and remain at the time of His coming.
At the time of Christ's return and after the judgment we will forever be with Christ and our brothers and sisters in Christ for all of eternity. So, just as verse 17 says, "So we shall always be with the Lord." There will be no more suffering, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more sin, and no more death!
Look up my brethren! God is not dead! He is alive! He is risen! He lives! And one day we will live eternally with Him!
Therefore comfort one another with these words.
The way in which we are told to comfort one another is primarily through the Word of God. There is a time and place for weeping and providing a shoulder to cry on and all of that is wonderful and has a proper place. However, we must never lose sight of the fact that our primary duty as comforters of other Christians is to comfort them with the words and promises of Scripture. God's words are faithful and true and God's Word is the primary source of comfort for the Christian.
It is the Word of God that reminds us and promises us that death is not final, Jesus has risen, and we possess eternal life. So, my friends comfort one another with these words. Comfort one another with the words of Scripture. Comfort one another with the hope that is found in Jesus Christ.