Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (verses 3-4)
What an exquisitely crafted sentence.
It starts with a powerfully tender description of our God. Notice how Paul intentionally focuses our attention by speaking of our “God and Father,” and then reverses the order and expands the description (“the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort”), which places “our Lord Jesus Christ” right at the centre.
There are so many descriptors Paul could have used to describe Almighty God: glory, justice, wisdom, eternity, immortality, power, wealth, understanding, knowledge. But he chooses the words “compassion” and “comfort.” How fatherly. Oh yes, our great God is indeed the Almighty One, who is all-powerful, all-wise, and a consuming fire. But wonderfully, he is Father to us.
“Compassion” speaks of the tenderness of his heart. This word also means “mercy” – if “grace” describes getting what we don’t deserve, “mercy” emphasizes not getting what we do deserve. Our Father knows us, through and through, and yet extends mercy. David, who personally experienced such response from the Lord, says (Psalm 103:13-14): “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” Oh, how good that he is the Father of compassion!
But also “comfort.” It’s a classic descriptor for a good Father, whose warm arms surround the child and soothe away pain and hurt and trauma. What an amazing word to use for Almighty God. It shouldn’t surprise us, though, for the very same root word is used by Jesus to describe the Holy Spirit – the One who is the Comforter, Counselor, Advocate, called alongside to help. This is the posture of our loving God toward us. How good.
For the rest of this amazing sentence, Paul can’t let go of this word “comfort.” He uses it four more times (though the NIV text above translates only three). He’s got comfort on his mind! But notice that he doesn’t clutch it to himself – instead, he extends it outward. The comfort is meant to flow. It’s not a matter of simply staying cocooned in comfort ourselves, but rather of being strengthened by it in such a way that we, who have been so comforted, can bestow comfort on others, also. We are to be caught up in the very activity of “the God of all comfort”himself.
What makes this so powerful is that the context is dire – Paul repeats the word “trouble” twice over to drive it home. This implies hard-hitting pressure, oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress. Paul knows what he’s talking about, having recently been plunged into its depths, so much so that he says it was “far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life” (verse .
In times of “trouble,” oh, how we need comfort. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” He gives us compassion and comfort. But he doesn’t stop there – he catches us up in his purposes, to multiply these blessings to others.
Oh, how good.
Father – you are a good, good Father. You are the Father of compassion and God of all comfort. Praise your name. I have received mercy upon mercy, and comfort upon comfort. You meet me in my need. You embrace me in your purposes. I will be thanking you for all eternity. Amen.
Reflect: Are you experiencing troubles? Bring them, each one, to the Father of compassion. Receive his comfort.
Is someone you know needing comfort? Pray. Ask the Lord to use you as an agent of compassion and comfort. Follow his lead.