Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
Your suffering is not for nothing. There are a number of ways God tells us why suffering can be for our benefit. For example, in the book of James we read:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)
The Apostle Paul takes it a step further:
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)
In all honesty, I have to admit I am not all that excited about these when I actually am in the middle of suffering. Isn’t there an easier way to improve in these areas?
However, in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, we read something that does catch my attention in an extremely positive way. It has been my go-to, pick me up, help when I can’t see the forest for the trees passage when I am suffering. Let’s take a look:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-11)
This passage is loaded with some amazing insights, but let me focus on these seven.
1. God cares about your suffering. Notice that God is the “Father of Compassion and the God of all comfort,” God loves you more than you love yourself and knows exactly what is going on in your life right now. Jesus comforted his anxious disciples by saying this: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)
2. God comforts us in all our troubles. Not just an occasional trouble. Nor just a minor trouble. But in all our troubles. God is that faithful.
Jumping down to the end of the passage, Paul tells of a time when he and some of the other disciples were convinced they were going to die. Literally. They had come to the point where they had lost confidence in anything they could have done on their own to escape. But we are told that this happened so they would rely on God, who has the power to raise the dead. The same is true for you and me today. Which brings us to…
3. God eagerly wants us to rely on him. As we do, he can and will transform even the bad things in our lives into something good.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”(Romans 8:28)
It is fascinating the multitude of ways God can do that.
4. Sometimes God works in supernatural ways, especially through prayer. Notice how much emphasis Paul gives to prayer, especially by others, as being a part of God’s deliverance. How that should motivate us to pray for others who are in need of comfort.
5. Oftentimes God uses people to deliver and comfort us. Make no mistake this is just as supernatural.
Later in 2 Corinthians we read: “For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.” (2 Corinthians 7:5-7)
I love this because not only did Titus comfort Paul, but the Corinthians had comforted Titus. God’s comfort was being transferred around like a virus, but in a positive way. Which brings us to the main point of the day…
6. God will use you to comfort others. Take a look at verses 3 and 4 again “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” This is an amazing promise from God that you need to let sink deep into your soul. Whatever you are going through, however you are suffering, even if it is due to making horrible choices in the past, God can redeem that by using you to minister comfort to others who are hurting.
First of all, God can do this by supernaturally bringing people into your life who are going through the same thing. I hate using myself as an example, but when I have been hurting in the past, I have experienced God’s comfort the most through people who had similarly suffered. When my wife died of cancer, I was bereft. I felt like my world had ended and grief was having its way with me like a cat toying with a lizard before it finally kills it. Many of you know exactly what I am talking about. During this time several things happened that not only kept me alive, but brought God’s comfort.
Within a week I received many phone calls from friends offering their condolences, and I thank God for all of them. However, three of them touched me in almost inexplicable ways. It wasn’t what they said, or even how they said it. It was their presence, even on the phone. All three of these people had recently lost a loved one to cancer. They knew. You know too when it comes to the areas you have and are currently suffering with. You have an earned PhD in that type of suffering.
However, and here is our wake-up moment of the day: Secondly, God will use you to supernaturally bring his comfort to people who are suffering in ways other than what you have personally experienced. Rivet your eyes on the word “any” in verse 4: “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
When I was grieving, I first went to a grief support group recommended by the hospice that my wife had died at. They were nice people, but to be honest, it didn’t help much so I didn’t return. A short time after I was invited to a Christian support group for those who were grieving for any reason. Even though I didn’t have much in common with those attending, the love and comfort of God flowing through the people there was almost palatable. I can easily say it was a major point in my healing. And it demonstrated to me the truth of 2 Corinthians 1:3-11.
I absolutely believe that God is going to redeem your past suffering the days ahead by both comforting you and using you to comfort others. Sometimes that process is part of our healing. Therefore, I will close by quoting a scrap of paper I have had in my desk and stared at often for decades, which I am calling…
7. The boomerang effect Dr. Karl Menninger, the famous psychiatrist, once gave a lecture on mental health and was answering questions from the audience. “What would you advise a person to do,” asked one man, “if that person felt a nervous breakdown coming on?”
Most people expected him to reply: “Consult a psychiatrist.”
To their astonishment, he replied: “Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need and do something to help that person.”
Pastor Glenn Wade
Makers Church Pastor-at-Large