The words, “hard times” and “healing counsel”, stand out repeatedly in this passage; they are always together. “Hard times” describe pressure or stress. It ties knots in our stomachs and makes us feel anxious or frightened about what lies ahead. It is what makes for hectic days and sleepless nights. It gnaws continually at our minds and threatens our well-being; it refuses to go away and leave us alone; it depresses us and darkens the future with forebodings of disaster.
“Healing counsel” is more than just a little cheer or friendly word of encouragement. The word means, “to strengthen.” What Paul experienced was the strengthening of God to give him a peaceful, restful spirit to meet the pressure and stress with which he lived.
It is truly amazing how many Christians dread facing their daily lives because they feel pressured, stressful and tied up in knots, and yet they never avail themselves of God's provision for that kind of pressure. These words are not addressed to us merely to be used for spiritual problems. They are to be used for any kind of stress, any kind of problems. God's comfort, God's strengthening, is available for whatever creates stress in our lives.
We say that we do not avail ourselves to Christ’s comfort because we give every evidence that we behave just like the world when we are in trouble—we try to escape our pressures. Or, we pray that we will be rescued from our pressures, that the problems will be taken away. All our hopes are for escape, and all our reactions are either worry; a murmuring, complaining spirit; anger; or fear. This is not Christianity in action.
Listen to Paul: “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah!” He praises God for the circumstances of his life even though there are afflictions. He calls God the “Father of all mercy (compassion). God of all healing counsel.” He sees God’s hand as having sent these things into his life; therefore, he doesn’t pray to have them removed so that he might escape from them. He sees them as opportunities for the release of the strength of God.
In times of grief and troubles, we must learn to find significance and comfort in knowing we are being equipped to serve others for Jesus’ sake.