“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 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…
“We do not want you to be unaware of the affliction we experienced in Asia. We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself... But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again... Help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-6,8-11
Suffering hits in varied shapes and sizes, and with differing force: chronic pain, sobering diagnosis, or breakdown of a lifelong ability. Agony over sinful choices of loved ones, or regret over consequences of my sin on others. Strained or broken relationships, in or out of my power to repair. In the midst, it is hard to hope beyond the quagmire of pain, confusion, or agony of loss. But a scriptural perspective helps us see beyond the suffocating immediate to a glorious God with glorious purpose for His children.
Suffering enable us to know the comfort of God that’s beyond anything the world gives, and intimacy with our Savior as we share in both His sufferings and resurrection power. Having experienced His palpable soul comfort, we can comfort others as companions in suffering through genuine listening, appropriate words, and the Holy Spirit’s tangible love. (Philippians 3:10)
God also teaches us not to rely on ourselves but on Him, a simple truth less trite than profound when we realize its broad effect. And suffering widens our scope of prayer, that many share in the bearing of burdens and the giving of praise. After all, life is all about God and His glory, and we have the privilege of manifesting it through the troubles and afflictions in our lives.
In preparation for hard places sure to come, would we seek to know the God who perfects strength in weakness? Would we take advantage of every lesson on suffering from His word and others? If we are presently in the midst, would we ask Him to give hope beyond what is pressing in at the moment? Would we look for and hold high the light that he gives in dark places of life and soul? (2 Corinthians 12:9)
What has God taught me about Himself through my suffering? Where and with whom have I been able to share empathy, comfort, and lessons learned? Are there opportunities I can take advantage of today?
Lord, let me never waste my suffering, but through it know You better. Compel me to share the bounty of Your grace, love, and comfort with others.