Encouraged in order to encourage

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Reflections based on 2 Corinthians 1:1–11.

‘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 receive from God.’

I believe this passage provides an immensely helpful, rounded picture of the role of encouragement in our lives. Paul begins his letter by offering praise to the ‘God of all comfort’. The word comfort comes from the Greek paraklēseōs, which means providing aid, including encouragement.

Paul explains that, just as our suffering can sometimes be because of our faith, so our comfort comes from the Source of that faith too. He explains that both he and his companions have suffered greatly, and yet it has taught them how to rely on God alone for their hope. I think that’s a lesson that we can continue to learn throughout our lives. I can be exceedingly quick to get into self-sufficiency mode when faced with pressures and difficulties. Leaning on God can sometimes only happen once I’ve exhausted my own resources, which is not how God intends us to live.

This latest season in my life has included some fairly big difficulties, which threatened to floor me, but I’ve really experienced God’s care and comfort. And, already, just sharing with others has opened up that sense of encouragement and support – not only for myself but I have been able to offer it too. That is how God wants us to live: coming to Him for our encouragement and then reaching out to those around us. When we allow Him to fashion and mould us through our difficulties we can reach out to others that we find come across our paths at a later date who are going through a similar thing. Just being able to shout encouragement from the sidelines, revealing that we’ve been able to get through to the other side of something they are struggling with is such a gift – both for the recipient and the one who gives the support.

Prayer: Have you considered the cycle of encouragement before today? Thank God that He ministers His comfort to us and gives us opportunities to give out what we receive to others.

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