Last week I began Part 1 of this post. In order for this train of thought to be cohesive, I encourage you to go back a week in the "Archives" to read the first part. I left you as I was heading out of town to the funeral of Uncle Bob, my husband's uncle, who was like a father to him. I posed the question as to whether there was a reason why we must suffer? I related a story of my suffering and I admit, I've wondered at times if God truly cares about the suffering I/we endure?
Uncle Bob knew suffering. After multiple strokes, he lived inside a body for sixteen years that couldn't walk or speak. Look around and we see suffering every day...people struggling with degenerative diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's, to name a few (not to mention their caregivers). Many people silently suffer with mental illness themselves or have a loved one who suffers. Prodigal sons and daughters break parents' hearts every day and gravesites are dug for children and youth long before their time. "Why?", we cry out.
Simply put, God does not cause suffering. God allows suffering because He allowed us (mankind) to have free will and we brought sin/suffering upon ourselves when we disobeyed God.
There is, however, an intricate and redeeming relationship between suffering and comfort.
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 have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 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. (2 Corinthians 1: 3-7)
Phew...there's a lot there that could take chapters to break down, but let's glean several nuggets of truth and hope. Here are some things God has revealed to me...
The greater the pain of our suffering, the greater the depth of comfort we will receive.
If we fall into a pit that is ten feet deep, God's arms of comfort will be there to catch us. If we fall into a great chasm, God will go down to the depths necessary in order to comfort us. His consolation knows no bounds.
In my life I have learned that there is a great correlation between suffering and God's love.
The greater the suffering endured = Greater realization of the depth of God's love for me.
Had I not gone through the trials I have gone through, I never would have known the boundless love, comfort, compassion, and consolation of God. In my greatest pain, I have found the greatest love. Certainly, there have been times when I've said, "I get it God...you love me...could you remove this suffering please?"
God is the source of every comfort. Comfort begins with God. God does and will comfort us in every affliction so that we may be able to comfort others (in distress) with the very same comfort by which we have been comforted. In other words, God pours out His comfort on us and in turn we are empowered to pour out His comfort onto others.
By this painfully beautiful act of comfort being poured out upon others' suffering we build bridges of vulnerability, trust, and intimacy.
Still with me??
Once saved through grace, we are also called to grow in our likeness of Christ.
We can't be the hands and feet of Jesus unless we have walked in His sandals.
To do so, we must learn how to share in His suffering. Christ endured the gruesome cross...through what form of suffering are you being conformed into Christ's likeness?
Sometimes my suffering has been truly unbearable. I'll be honest, I hate it when I'm IN the crucible. That's when I need to cling to an eternal perspective - that these troubles will seem "seem light and momentary" when I burst through these shackles into eternal paradise and freedom with Christ.
My "patient endurance" is building character in me for the Kingdom work I will be called on to perform when the new heaven and earth come.
A mentor of mine once said to me, "Girl, based on the suffering you have persevered through, God must have some mighty big Kingdom work in store for you in Heaven!" You better believe I won't be sitting around on a cloud strumming a harp lol.
This might be a little corny, but here goes...
When suffering makes you want to just QUIT...remember you are a KWIT (Kingdom Worker In Training)
On a more serious note, God knows and deeply cares about your suffering. He is the God who truly sees. He will go to whatever depths He has to in order to lovingly lift your head. He catches all your tears and counts them. He will match your suffering with His furious love.
From 1 Peter 5, read and...
...know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
How have you grown in God's love and comfort through suffering? Are you suffering right now and need others to pray for you? Please let me and others pray for you either through commenting or contacting me.