“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 all in 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.” - 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
“We all know people who have been made much meaner and more irritable and more intolerable to live with by suffering: It is not right to say that all suffering perfects. It only perfects one type of person…the one who accepts the call of God in Christ Jesus.” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
We all have a choice when it comes to suffering. While we do not have the power to control our circumstances, we can choose how we respond to suffering. There are only two choices: Bitterness or holiness. Philippians 1:29 says that it has been granted to us not only to believe in Jesus, but also to suffer with Him. In the same way that God has granted us the gift of belief in Jesus, He also grants us the gift of sharing in Christ’s suffering.
Why would part of God’s mission be for His children to suffer? As earthly parents, our instinct is to protect our children from suffering. But, because we love them, we know that sometimes suffering is for their good. Because we are wiser than our children, we see past temporary discomfort to the greater reward. How much more so is God able to do the same in our suffering!
There are two main pieces of God’s mission in suffering that Paul identifies in this passage. First, in suffering we identify more deeply with Christ. If we choose holiness, suffering will result in a deeper union with our Savior. We will experience Him in ways we never would if we resist God’s ways. Second, suffering gives us a unique ministry to others. Because we experience God’s comfort so deeply during suffering, we are equipped to comfort others in a more meaningful way. No one can comfort a widow, a parent who has lost a child, or a person battling cancer more deeply than someone who has faced the same loss, grief and struggle.
Each hardship we face brings a choice. Will you resist God’s calling in Christ to know Him and make Him known to others, or will you trust Him by submitting to His work in your life?
Father, You are wise in all Your ways. I know that I never have to fear Your work in my life. Please forgive me for the times that I doubt Your goodness and resist Your hand. Please remove any anger or bitterness hidden in my heart. I want to walk in the calling You have placed on my life to know Jesus and make Him known.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.