It says that my struggles, my affliction – the word can also be translated “suffering” – prepare me to comfort those regardless of what struggles they are experiencing. Sometimes I hesitate to engage with people going through stuff I have not navigated myself. My thought is that I cannot understand and therefore cannot effectively support them. Paul – actually the Holy Spirit here – says that is not true. We are able and in fact required to enter into the affliction of those in our community to comfort them in “any” affliction whether we have experienced it or not.
Galatians 6:1 – 2, may be a correlating help here. While the focus of 6:1 is on those who are in trespass, the exhortation remains sound. When we engage in comfort we need to be drawing on our own experience of pain and the leading of the Holy Spirit so that we can bear one another’s burdens, 6:2.
It is not an easy assignment, but it is ours nonetheless.