The God of Consolation
By Forrest Buckner, Storm Family Dean of Spiritual Life & Campus Pastor
I have recently been struck by the first chapter of 2 Corinthians. Paul is writing to a community he loves but is physically separated from. The community is undergoing suffering in various forms, as are Paul and his companions. They are all seeking to make meaning of their circumstances. However, instead of trying to explain their suffering or guide them out of their painful situation, Paul takes a different approach. He reminds them of who God is:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation…" (2 Corinthians 1:3).
The God of all consolation. In verses 3-7, Paul uses forms of the word "consolation" 10 times! He explains that this God of all consolation is the God who has known suffering from the inside in Jesus, and who thus provides comfort for all who are afflicted and empowers them to console others.
For me, this passage provides insight into our current situation, as all of us in the Whitworth community weather this storm. We are all experiencing the afflictions of COVID-19 in various ways, and we are all situated in communities and a world that is in deep need of consolation. I wonder if we might follow Paul's lead by lifting our eyes and the eyes of others away from ourselves to the God of consolation who comes alongside us in our suffering and confusion.
The same root word that is translated as "consolation" in 2 Corinthians 1 is used in the Gospel of John to describe the Holy Spirit, the "Comforter" who abides in us, teaches us, guides us into truth, gives us peace and empowers us to join God in his work in the world. Jesus even goes so far as to say that "it is for your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you" (John 16:7). As Jesus finishes his work on earth, he promises us comfort, consolation and purpose through the Holy Spirit, regardless of the adverse circumstances that may come.
None of us expected to be in this situation. None of us thought we would need to be so concerned about our own health and the health of the vulnerable in our midst. No one foresaw such economic distress near and far. No Whitworth seniors envisioned finishing their final semester away from beloved friends and professors. No spring athlete spent nine months training for their season to get canceled. No high school seniors thought that their college search visits would turn into virtual visits.
None of us have answers as to why these hardships and countless others in our current situation are occurring. However, as people of faith, we all have one thing: We know the "God of all consolation who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
My prayer for you and for all of us in the extended Whitworth family today is that, no matter what comes our way, we would know God's comfort revealed in Jesus Christ and confirmed by the Holy Spirit and thus be vessels of God's consolation to a distressed world.
Would you like to be prayed for? Send your prayer requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.