SUFFERING FOR OTHERS
By Christopher L. Scott
Moses Lake, Wash.
An 80-year-old man still talks about a miscarriage he and his wife had when they were in their twenties. It was painful and hurtful. It was devastating to them. But to this day, more than 50 years later, he knows that experience has helped him comfort others. In his words, “I would never be able to comfort others experiencing the grief of a miscarriage if I had not myself been through the pain of a miscarriage.” But that man’s sentiment is not new. Paul wrote something similar to the believers living in the city of Corinth.
“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 will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NASB).
Let me, if I may, point out a few important things in these two verses. Notice Paul tells us that God comforts us in “all” of our afflictions. Every emotional thought and every painful tear involves God’s comfort. A boyfriend cheating on us, a job taken away from us, a marriage that slips away from us, or a time of good health that alludes us. He is with us through each and every painful experience we endure.
Let’s also notice that there’s a purpose Paul describes in the comforting that occurs in affliction. Paul writes that God comforts us in our affliction “so that” we may be able to comfort others in their affliction. I know that it might sound cliché that we are in affliction and comforted in that affliction so that we can comfort others. While suffering and difficult experiences cause us severe pain, we must remember that those experiences often serve a purpose later to comfort others.
Pastor Tony Evans writes about these verses, “If anyone assures you that you can avoid suffering like health problems, mental anguish, relationship difficulties, or financial straits—provided that you have enough faith—they’re not telling you the truth. Paul was a visible and verbal follower of Christ who stood head and shoulders above other Christians in terms of faithfulness. And he suffered greatly—not despite his faith but because of his faith in and obedience to Christ. Paul’s suffering and ours is directly related to God’s purpose of using us to minister to others.”
I know most of us reading these words right now are going through tough times of suffering. But God’s message to us in 1 Corinthians is that God will comfort us at this time during our affliction, and He will give us plenty of opportunities in the future to comfort others as they experience similar afflictions that we’ve already endured.
Christopher L. Scott, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, is a pastor and freelance writer. Christopher L. Scott writes from Exeter, CA. Learn more about his writing ministry at ChristopherLynnScott.com.
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