Paul opened his second letter to the Corinthians with an explanation of why he hadn’t returned to visit them. Rather than sharing the details of what had happened to him , Paul talked about believers suffering. Paul told the Corinthians that God was their primary resource during difficult times and stated, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). The Greek word translated mercies, oiktirmos means pity (G3628). Oiktirmos has to do with the emotions of the heart and typically signifies compassion, a feeling of distress about the unfortunate circumstances of others.
Paul went on to explain that God comforts us in our suffering so that we can comfort others. The two Greek words Paul used that are translated comfort in 2 Corinthians 1:4 are parkaleo and paraklesis. These words mean, “to call to ones side” (G3870) or “a calling to one’s side (G3874). The idea Paul was conveying was togetherness. Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that God was by their sides when they went through difficult circumstances and he also stated that God comforts us “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (1 Corinthians 1:4, ESV).
Paul didn’t state it specifically, but he somewhat implied by his use of the word comfort that he was talking about the Holy Spirit when he said “the God of all comfort” (1 Corinthians 1:3). Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the “Comforter” (John 15:26). The Greek word translated Comforter, “parakletos is the one summoned, called to one’s side, especially called to one’s aid and is used of Christ in his exaltation at God’s right hand” (G3875). The Holy Spirit gives us divine strength so that we are able to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of God’s kingdom.
One of the goals of a Christian’s life is to maintain peace and harmony (G4991). As we go through our daily routines, things can happen that interfere with our peaceful existence. Paul identified three kinds of suffering that Christians have to deal with in his explanation of why he hadn’t made it back to Corinth. First, Paul talked about tribulation (2 Corinthians 1:4) which can be anything that burdens our spirit (G2347). Paul also referred to this as trouble and said, “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
Paul also talked about the sufferings of Christ (2 Corinthians 1:5). At the heart Christ’s suffering were emotions that were caused by external influences on his mind (G3804). Most likely Paul was referring to spiritual warfare, but this kind of suffering can also be caused by people who are abusing us, those who try to manipulate us into doing things we don’t want to do. Another scenario Paul mentioned was being afflicted (2 Corinthians 1:6). Affliction is the pressure of circumstances (G2346). According to Paul, affliction is what bonds us with other believers. Out of affliction comes the notion that we are in this together. Paul was essentially trying to tell the Corinthians, I feel your pain and I wish I could be there with you.
Even though he was unable to visit them in person, Paul wanted the Corinthians to know they were very important to him. Paul took his ministry responsibility seriously and didn’t intend to just leave the Corinthians hanging. In order to assure them of his commitment to return, Paul reminded the Corinthians that God had called him to minister to them and said, “I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth” (2 Corinthians 1:23). Paul had intended to encourage the Corinthians when he returned for a second visit, but because of his own suffering, Paul decided to write to them rather than talk to the Corinthians face to face.