“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compasion 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 have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Beyond the facade that we all put on, we are all struggling with something right now. We are all experiencing hardship or pain. Or, at least, we inevitably will be. Due to sin in the world, we all experience evil and injustice and pain in our lives. Underneath the veneer of a smile that says “I’ve got everything together,” what troubles are you facing right now?
The Bible has some encouragement for those of us who are struggling (which, is all of us!) — God can bring about a purpose from our pain. Our devo for this week teaches us this important truth: God uses our pain to help others.
We see this from a short passage in 2 Corinthians, verses 3-7. From this passage we learn the process by which God brings a purpose from our troubles.
1. There is hardship
That’s a given. As I said above and in my devo about Psalm 10, because of sin in the world, there is inevitably evil and suffering in the world. But this passage also reminds us that as Christians, we will face hardship for another reason: because the “sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives” (verse 5). Jesus warned that if anyone wants to follow him, he must “deny himself and take up his cross daily” (Luke 9:23). Deciding to follow Christ gives us the greatest gift we could ask for – salvation – but it also means that we will face suffering and persecution as we choose to live in a way that stands at odds with society.
2. God comforts us in our hardship
God is a God of compassion! He will comfort us and sustain us in our time of need. He may not take us out of the situation, but he provides us with just what we need for the day. Just as the psalmist says: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4)
3. God uses the situation to help others
We see that there are a variety of ways that God can use our suffering and comfort to aid others. First, when we are comforted we can encourage others with that same comfort we receive from God. When we experience God’s faithfulness to us in times of trouble, we can tell others about his faithfulness. We can share our own stories and encourage people who are going through anything; “God did this when I was facing this, so I know he will support you, too.”
Second, we can encourage those who experience the same troubles. Many times, those who faced abuse or addiction in their past develop a passion to help others overcome the same struggles. God can use our hardships to encourage people who share the exact same sufferings. “I know exactly the troubles you face; this is how God got me through this/is getting me through it.”
And third, as we press through struggles together, we help others to build up a “patient endurance.” As others see us in our raw moments – barely hanging on by a thread, yet still clinging to God and believing in his promises – we may be God’s instrument to provide that small piece of hope that they need to hang on for one more day. We help them to take one more step, and patiently rely on the faithfulness of God. “Hang on with me, I know that God will come through for us both.”
When we are far down in the pits of despair, a “cheer up” card, pat on the back, or pithy Bible verse isn’t enough to sustain us, it’s the true stories of God’s faithfulness to everyday people. That’s why God gives us the stories of the Bible and the testimonies of believers (present and past) to show us his steadfast love time and time again.
If you are in the middle of some kind of suffering, you might not be able to see how God could bring any good from it. Maybe you will never see “good” come from it. But no matter where you are in the midst of the pain, you can comfort others with the truth of your experience. Even if it sounds something like this, “You know, I know that God is good and that he is faithful, but I can’t see it right now. Even still, I’m holding on to his promises and I’m crying out to him. And I know that he will come through.”
As the Casting Crowns song says, this week let’s be “broken together,” as God brings a purpose from our pain.
Challenges for this week:
1. Come clean. Do you cover your life in a veneer of happiness, while you feel like you are broken and empty inside? Maybe this week you need to admit this to a close family member, friend, or a pastor and seek their support. Or maybe you first need to admit to yourself that you are struggling and need help.
2. Seek God’s comfort. Stop trying to handle things on your own. Seek the guidance of the Father of all compassion. Read through the Psalms. Read the stories of Bible characters who experienced God’s faithfulness (the story of Joseph or Daniel are good ones!). Talk to a trusted Christian friend and ask them how God has sustained them through hard times. Seek the help of a Christian counselor. Pray.
3. Provide comfort. No matter where you are in the struggles you face – deep in the trenches or finally overcoming – you can encourage someone. Tell others how God has been faithful to you. Help someone who is facing the exact trial you faced. Show others how you are hanging on by a thread, sustained by God’s hand. Your honest testimony may just be the words of encouragement someone needs to make it through that day.