I've recently been reading through 2 Corinthians and have seen how the apostle Paul has a soft, tender heart towards the church in Corinth. Despite everything that he's been through he has not allowed his heart to become hard; in fact, his circumstances have not made him rely on his own strength but rather he has discovered the power of comfort and weakness.
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children —open wide your hearts also. (2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NIV)
Paul has had to write to the Corinthians about some pretty major things and, no doubt, it would have been easy for him to be judgemental or critical. That, however, is not his posture. He appeals to them to change, "to come out from them and be separate" (verse 17), he appeals to them to open their hearts in the same way as he and Titus have opened their hearts to them.
I have often wondered how Paul managed to maintain an open heart after he had been through so much hardship. The key is found in the first few verses of chapter 7: he is greatly comforted. Paul had found the power of living from a comforted heart. He receives that comfort once again as Titus visits him and is able to comfort him with the comfort that he himself has received. The fruit of a comforted heart is also seen in Titus - he has been refreshed by being with them.
Comfort is contagious! When we are comforted we are able to comfort others. I believe we receive, first and foremost, because we need to be comforted. We don't principally receive comfort in order to give it out although that is the natural consequence. Comfort restores us, it encourages us, it enables us to face the hardships of life and, importantly, it is the key to us keeping an open, tender heart.
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Mark Gyde - A Father to YOU