This weekend, at Bradley Road Baptist Church I’ll be preaching on Psalm 93 in the morning, and 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 in the evening. The focus of this passage from 2 Corinthians has to do with comfort and suffering. As I was preparing for this sermon I came across this article that I wrote back in 2008 and I thought now was a good time to share it again.
Life is painful. Whether we like to admit it or not, no one goes through life without some degree of suffering, pain, and discomfort. Suffering is a fact, even in the life of the believer. This can be a rather discouraging thought. No matter how good you are or how many things you have, you are going to experience pain. No matter how much you try to protect yourself or those around you, you are going to suffer, be hurt, and experience discomfort. Pain is not something that many people deal well with, especially in the lives of others. When someone comes to us with a problem we often want to direct them to somebody else — a pastor, teacher or friend — anyone but ourselves! The last thing that we are prepared for is for a friend to tell us that they just had an abortion and are feeling guilty. Or that your best friend is struggling with drugs. Or that the person who had it all together just committed suicide. Too often we as Christians try to drop these problems like a hot potato, and we miss the incredible opportunity that God has given us.
God does not put us through pain and suffering for no reason. James talks about this when he says in James 1:2-3, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” God does everything for His glory and we are often the beneficiaries of that (Psalm 23:3). 2 Corinthians tells us that God comforts us so that we can comfort others (2 Corinthians 1).
The pain that we are going through is not pointless, nor is it random. It is happening at a specific time for a specific reason, and through it God is glorified. To the believer this is a tremendous truth! Not only do our trials make us stronger and better prepared to help others; they also bring glory to God! This can be an incredible promise, but it is something more. God does not just ask us to help others. He does not just want a select few to counsel and advise those in need. He commands us all to comfort others.
All the pain, tears, and suffering that we experience have a purpose. One of which is that we might experience the comfort of God, and thereby comfort others. Without suffering comfort is meaningless. Unless we experience pain we cannot have healing, without sin there can be no redemption. It is the very suffering we experience that brings the comfort we crave. God allows us to suffer in order to know Him more intimately. Think of Job. Stripped of everything he ever valued; health, love, family, friends, wealth, and even God. (Or so he thought!) Yet it was through this suffering and pain that Job experienced God like never before.
Yet is this comfort a private thing between us and God? Are the trials, and subsequent, comfort, only for us? No. 2 Corinthians 1:3-6, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.”
God’s grace is often nuanced and multifaceted. He takes private suffering and comfort and transforms it into a powerful tool of ministry. Suddenly our experiences with sin and pain become means of comfort, love, and redemption. As we experience trials we grow in character and godliness. God, in His mercy, comforts us and we grow into a deeper relationship with Him. However this comfort & redemption are not private matters to be stored within the deepest recesses of our hearts. God gives us the opportunity to minister to others with the comfort, that He gave to us in our trials. As we comfort one another we have an increased sense of community. As we experience trials we grow in grace and receive comfort that can be applied to others. And through it all God is glorified.
Pain is inevitable. Yet God transforms even the most tragic events, (like the cross) into glorious moments. He takes the horror of sin, and grants transforming love. So the next time you experience suffering, remind yourself that God has a greater purpose. To comfort you in your affliction, and prepare you to comfort others as well.