I think much of what drives us in this life is a desire for comfort. Naturally, we don’t like pain, stress, pressure, and the like, so we go looking for rest. This, in and of itself, is not a problem. There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel comfort, but like everything else, the problem arises when we find comfort in the wrong places. Comfort should not be sought in our pet sins, but in the Lord.
The Lord, however, gives us comfort through a variety of legitimate means. As I was reading the Bible this morning, I was struck by what God used to comfort the apostle Paul and what it says about Paul that he actually saw this as comfort. In 2 Corinthians, Paul makes it clear that he and Timothy are experiencing affliction and distress in ministry (1:8-11), so I would expect that what they would see as comfort would be for the suffering to stop completely. But in 7:6-7 Paul tells us what actually brought them comfort: “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you.”
You may have to read that last part more slowly, but what Paul is saying is that the arrival of Titus gave them comfort, but beyond that, they were comforted by the fact that Titus had been comforted by the Corinthian church (the people he is writing to) in his visit with them just previous to meeting up with Paul and Timothy. The fact that Titus had been comforted by the Corinthians comforted Paul because it meant that they were in a place of spiritual health (v. 9 tells us that they had repented of sin). Paul’s heart was so wrapped up in the spiritual welfare of the local churches he was serving that the news of them acting out biblical Christianity for the benefit of his friend was uplifting to him.
The reason why this was striking to me is because I want my heart to feel the same comfort as Paul’s when I hear the news that my church is acting out biblical Christianity for the good of others. I want to so love them and invest in their lives for the glory of God that my heart is immediately uplifted upon hearing even the smallest report of their obedience to the Lord. This desire, however, should not be only for pastors and people in full-time ministry, but for everyone in the church. We are the body of Christ, together united with him through his death and resurrection. Therefore, let us pray that our hearts will be “knit together in love” (Colossians 2:2), so that what we experience as comfort in our trials is the news that others are growing in holiness.