“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.”
— 2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-4 (NRSV)
We, in our cultures, might not think much of the word “consolation” as we attach to it the receipt of novelty prizes. Everyone wants first place, not the consolation prize. But God’s consolation is worlds different. It’s everything to the lowly.
Consolation is also a basis for belief, for how much better a sign of God’s love is this comfort that the Spirit offers? It’s the very reason many of us believe, or came to believe, in the first place.
God is made real by the solace we experience in our problems, issues and hellish realities.
But this consolation has a more definitive, ongoing purpose.
For the Consolation of Others
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” says the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:15.
One of the bases of our belief in God is that the relief we experience is purposed to be experienced by others in their plights – the hope of God through us to them.
We’re to be open to people who suffer, so we might deliver for them copious portions of the genuine compassion of Jesus — no matter where they find themselves. The imperative of Romans 12:15 is not conditional; it’s how we’re to operate as disciples of Christ.
This has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘converting’ people. Compassion has no strings. Compassion is completely other-centred.
The Empathy of Consolation
One of the incredibly difficult contrasts of faith is empathy. Someone who’s never needed this consolation of God — who hasn’t experienced that deep comfort — cannot possibly know the depth of it, so as to offer it through themselves via the Holy Spirit to someone else.
This is the blessing that suffering delivers to those who’ve suffered, for they’ve lived the compassion of God. It’s become intrinsic to who they are.
Those who’ve not suffered to such a vast extent — and they are fortunate — should not feel bad for not knowing that depth of empathy; theirs is a different call. They can still be compassionate, but at accord with their experience, for everyone should be authentic to whom they are.
If we’ve suffered it’s for this reason; to help others with the help we’ve received from God.
If you’re suffering, there’s a purpose to it; one that in time you may be supremely thankful for.
The consolation of God becomes the foundation from which all of the rest of our lives springs from. It really is Spiritual gold.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.