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 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. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
Are you suffering? Are you hurting so badly that you think God can’t possibly bring any good from it? When life is hard, it is challenging not to take the pain personally, or to think that God doesn’t care about you anymore. It is difficult not to believe that He is somehow punishing you for a sin you can’t remember. When you feel crushed under the weight of sorrow, grief, or physical pain, the question, “why me?” comes to mind more often than we want to admit.
Before we dismiss that question as irrelevant, I think we should stick with it for a minute. Why, indeed, has God chosen you for this particular trial? You know that God is sovereign, and that nothing comes to you that has not first gotten His green light. So, what might be the reason for God’s decision to allow this particular pain in your life? Having acknowledged our fallen state, and the truth that in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33), we have to move on to the more personal aspect of the answer to, “why me?”
This is where our Scripture passage above is helpful. This is one of those “one another” passages of Scripture that remind us of our obligation and privilege to come alongside one another with comfort in tough times—to weep with those who weep. But there’s something else here we sometimes miss. That little word that between tribulation and we. This passage tells us that the God of all comfort comforts us so that we will be able to comfort others. Yes, His comfort is for us—for our good, and for our help—but there is a greater purpose for it: so that we, having learned more of Him through our suffering, may then comfort one another.
We have a choice.
When we are suffering, we have a choice. We can turn inward, groaning in our pain and falling into self-pity. That little “why-me” can turn into a great big “it’s-all-about-me” pretty quickly, if we’re not careful with our thinking. Or we can turn to Christ, groaning in prayer and falling fully on Him for our help and comfort. This is indeed a choice. God’s Word tells us that we are able to choose to think differently about any particular circumstance if we want to (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). For most, the default focus when it comes to our response is self. This, again, is partly a result of the fall, but it is also a result of habit. Somewhere along the way, we gave in to self-pity or hopelessness, and it became our go-to response.
But friend, this can change! You are not a slave to your feelings or your habits. You can begin to respond differently to your pain and loss, and this passage of Scripture shows us why we should strive to do this: so that we can comfort others with the comfort we have received! Your suffering is not only for your sanctification and God’s glory, though it is certainly for those reasons. It is also, and I believe more importantly, for you to learn how you can biblically comfort someone else.
I specify biblically because, as you know, there are many ways to comfort someone. You can bring them dinner and flowers; you can listen to their sorrow and pain; you can empathize and pray for them. All these things are important, and you should certainly try to offer these practical comforts. But beyond these things, think of the comfort you have received in Christ. Remember, we are to comfort one another with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. Think of what you’ve learned from your suffering. Remember the Scriptures the Lord has used to minister specifically to you in your deepest pain. Meditate on the healing you’ve seen in your heart, from the beginning of your grief or trial until now. Reflect on how others in your life have been changed, not just by your suffering, but by your response to it. Then, use these things to comfort another struggling believer.
Consolation abounds in the church
Suffering is never easy, but it always has a purpose. Truly, it has many purposes. But as I think of the importance of the church, and the strength I have gained through the ministry of my brothers and sisters there, I see clearly that a key purpose of suffering is so that we can learn to comfort one another using the lessons we have learned through it. When we suffer, we get just a glimpse of Christ’s suffering, so that His sufferings abound in us (2 Corinthians 1:5). And the consolation we receive from Him abounds in us through Him, to one another.
So, the next time you find yourself asking, “why me?,” don’t take it personally. Answer yourself biblically: this trial is for my good and God’s glory. I can bring more glory to God by submitting to His will, learning and growing through my suffering, and then going out and helping others apply the biblical lessons the Lord has taught me. When you are suffering, pay attention to what the Lord is doing—how He is comforting you—in your suffering. Journal about it. Keep a record of His consolations abounding in you. Then, share these things with the next trial-weary brother or sister you meet. This is how the consolations of Christ spread through the church, and this is how we glorify God in our trouble.