Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Suffering...


                I have a friend that is going through a very difficult time in her life right now. She is in deep anguish of heart and cries out for comfort. I, along with others, have been praying very diligently for her to know the comfort that only comes from God. As I was praying for her this morning, I was reminded of a scripture passage in 2 Corinthians, where Paul writes about the sufferings of our brothers and sisters and the comfort that we each have been given through Jesus Christ.
                “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
                As I began to break apart these verses and search for the wisdom and truth that were in them, I was reminded of some of the trials and sufferings that I have faced in my lifetime. The loss of my mother to cancer, the anguish of a son who has walked away from the Lord Jesus Christ, and all the other day to day burdens of life, came into my thoughts. It was those who comforted me that helped me through some of those trials and anguish of heart. It was those who had experienced the losses and the similar suffering that showed me the love and the mercy of God the Father towards me.
                Paul writes that He is the “Father of mercies.” Mercy is another word used to describe compassion. Compassion is the response to the sight of another person’s troubles. God the Father is the author of compassion and mercy. He saw our need, our suffering, our distress and He; in His love and in His pity for us lifted us up and carried us out of them in the person of Jesus Christ. (Isaiah 63:9) The comfort that we seek, the compassion that we desire comes first from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Compassion is not found in any other creature, He is the Father of it, He has given it and we receive it.
                Paul goes on to say that He “comforts us in all our tribulation”. All means all and that’s all, all means. There are not exceptions to the “all” in which Paul is writing about. No matter the situation we are in, no matter the circumstances, no matter the trouble that is at hand, comfort, encouragement and compassion are ours in Jesus Christ. We can look to Him and He will comfort us.
                There is a purpose and a reason for all of us to go through suffering and trials, loss and anguish, distress and burdens of life. That purpose is to help others and to show them the love and the mercy which is found only in Him. I did not understand at the time why the Lord was allowing me to go through the anguish of losing my mom, but today, I can draw from the same comfort that the Lord showed me and I can pass it on to my friend who is suffering loss as well.  God has a sovereign purpose both in our troubles and in the comfort that He gives us in them. If we have experienced God’s comfort in suffering, we may be able to support others whose sufferings are like ours. We do not suffer alone, we suffer with Him, and He suffers with us.
                Paul saw and knew that God’s sovereign hand and redemptive purpose was in everything that happens to him and to the Corinthians. He knew that whether they were in distress, or they were being comforted, God was using that to bring others to Him. When one member suffers, the whole body suffers. “The more fully this reality influences the attitudes and actions of believers toward each other, the more fully they experience satisfying fellowship through Christ with one another.” (IVP Commentary) Suffering and distresses cause us to draw near to one another; it creates in us a unity of Spirit that the Lord God desires to be upon all His children. We are never alone, we are part of a bigger picture, and the sufferings that we endure are for the benefit of others.
                I know that right now, as you go through the suffering and anguish of your trial that the last thing on your mind is helping others. But I hope that you can see through God’s eyes today and see that He has a bigger picture in mind. You are being trained and equipped to help bring others the comfort and the compassion that they will need. Suffering is another way of God providing for all our needs. Suffering is intended to equip us to serve our brothers and sisters. Our trials and sufferings may differ, but the comfort that we seek is the same. We are not alone, we have a family from God who can comfort us, and can bring us to that place of rest and peace in Jesus Christ.
                No matter what you are going through today, whether it is the loss of a loved one, pain or sickness, trials of life or anguish of heart- there is a God of all Comfort who desires to draw you near to Him through the body of believers that He has set around you. He desires to wrap His arms around you and encourage you with these words, “Weeping may endure for a night, but Joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) Take some time today to go to your Father of mercies and your Lord and Savior who knew suffering like no other, let Him pull you close and give you the comfort that you seek and that you need. I promise you, joy will come in the morning.
                Father of all comfort and mercy, we come before you today and we ask that You would pour out your comfort into the hearts of Your people. If we need comfort, let us find it in You. If we need to go and comfort someone, give us the wisdom to go and to be that comfort, that vessel filled with Your compassion. May the joy that comes only from You be with us today, no matter what we are going through, You too have suffered and gone through pain and trials for each one of us. You are ready and able to provide us with all the comfort that we need, forever and ever. Amen and Amen.