I really should make a habit of coming to the book of 2nd Corinthians more often. I think it is my single favorite Bible book, and I affirm that every time I open it up, and then I forget it as the weeks or months pass between my ventures there. Something different seems to grab my attention every time I open it up. In the past it was the Ministry of Reconciliation of 2Cor 5 (still probably my favorite chapter in Scripture), the comparative glories of the Old and New Covenants of 2Cor 3, or the sweet aroma of the knowledge of God that He spreads through us everywhere we go in 2Cor 2.
Today, however, I find myself reading through again and for the first time I catch the 10x repetition of “comfort” in 1:3-10 with the guiding premise, “God comforts us in our troubles so that we can comfort one another with the same comfort He has levied on us.” That’s not a new principle to me or to many others, I am sure. I think of a woman who has miscarried being comforted by so many other mothers who have lost little ones along the way. I think of a young man who has had his heart broken by a young lady for the first time only to be lifted up by a circle of brothers who have traversed that valley before him. God does not waste our life difficulties. He doesn’t waste anything. God takes the very dust of the earth–not exactly the most treasured of earth’s resources–and fashions us in His own image. Grasping this for the first time, I think I finally begin to trace the thought of this book like I have not before. God uses our suffering for the comfort of others (ch.1); He uses the places we travel in our everyday lives to spread the knowledge of Himself (ch.2); He uses the fading glory of the Old Covenant, the covenant of death, to magnify the glory of the New Covenant, the covenant of life, which endures into perpetuity (ch.3); He instills in earthen vessels (good old Jars of Clay) “this treasure,” the Light of the Knowledge of the Glory of God, and He places on us the death of Christ so that in us the life of Christ might shine through (ch.4); He even works the affliction, brokenness, and death of His saints for the life of the world (ch.4); He names those who were far off and have now been reconciled as His ambassadors, His stewards of this Ministry of Reconciliation (ch.5); He uses the whole lot of the troubles of life for the accreditation of His ministers: affliction, hardship, distress, beatings, prison, labor, sleeplessness, hunger, dishonor, slander, anonymity, death, punishment, sorrow, and poverty (ch.6)–He uses it all. What more encouragement do we need to press on?
There is a second takeaway from this trek through 2 Corinthians for me today, and believe it or not this is the one that actually grabbed me: “You are our letter [of commendation], written in our hearts, known and read by all men…a letter of Christ…written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (3:2-3).” This is blowing my mind as I think about the students that are going to show up at youth time tonight. They are my letter of commendation. My wife is my letter of commendation. My friends spread across the US, my family back home, the Pauls and Timothys of my life past–they are all my letter of commendation. These are the only commendations that bear any weight, because this is all that will last. You and I are going to leave a lot of fingerprints in the places that we go in this life. Will they be the marks of edification or destruction?