Dear suffering brother or sister in the Lord,
I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately and praying the Lord will continue to strengthen and comfort you in your present trial and bless you with the eyes of childlike faith so that you may see through the fog of your pain to His goodness and grace in Jesus Christ. I realize you are suffering in a specific way that you had not expected. This kind of suffering happens to other people, not to you. I know. I understand. But God has custom-designed this trial for the purifying of your faith, spiritual growth, and blessing so you may more effectively dispense His grace to others. He is working.
Oh, yes, I realize we don’t need to experience everything someone else does in order to legitimately minister to them. The truth of God’s Word penetrates the soul and comforts the heart with or without an empathetic servant to deliver it. However, it is gracious of the Lord, and immensely helpful to us, when we receive God’s comfort from someone whose heart oozes the empathy of biblical compassion. Now it is your turn. You are the one receiving the abundance of grace because somewhere down the road there will be another sufferer who will desperately need you. Be ready to ooze grace upon them. Their heart, soul, and mind will need it like you need oxygen. And they will need you near them—to carry their spirit—like you need your two legs to carry your body.
So, if in the midst of your storm your mind becomes weary and your memory cloudy then cling to simple anchors of faith like these two passages of Scripture.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…(Rom 8:28-29, NASB)
In this passage, I see three incredible truths that apply to your current situation.
- All things, even bad things, are used by God to produce good in the lives of believers. Therefore, as believers in Jesus Christ, we know without a doubt that God is working out His good purpose in your life right at this moment even if you or I cannot yet see it.
- It is GOD who causes all things to work toward your good. It is not merely a “things will work out in the end,” or a passive “whatever is meant to be is meant to be” kind of fatalism. But God is actively at work in your life right now.
- The ultimate “good” that God is working all things in your life toward is His goal of shaping you into the image of Christ. We know that everything God puts into our lives is for the ultimate purpose of His glory and our good. And the best “good” for us is that we become more like Jesus. Therefore, one of the most helpful questions you can be asking right now is, “Lord, how can I become more like Christ because of this trial?”
Then, consider another anchor:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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 may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ (2 Cor 1:2-5).
In this passage, I see five more principles that encourage your growth in Christ during and after your time of suffering.
- Grace and peace come only from God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace in time of need, and inner peace that enables you to reflect Christ in your trial, are two of the infinite resources that are yours in Jesus Christ.
- God is the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” That is, He sees you in your present suffering through His eyes of mercy and is ready to dispense divine comfort at every moment you need it. Indeed, He “comforts us in all our affliction.”
- Suffering expands your ministry. One very significant reason God comforts believers in our affliction is “so that we may be able to comfort” others who are experiencing trials. This truth has greatly encouraged my wife and me when we struggled with the news of deafness and disability, miscarriage, and numerous other trials that are part of living in a fallen world. We often wonder who God will put into our lives as a result of the trials we experience. There is no doubt in my mind that God is right now equipping you as well for future opportunities to give grace to others as they hurt. What a joy you will have to be used by God in that way!
- Suffering authenticates your ministry. Not only does affliction open the door to reaching more people with the hope of the gospel, but it makes your own message of comfort more real to them, more believable. We comfort others “with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” In other words, like a relay race, you will pass on to the next sufferer the same comfort that God has given to you.
- Both suffering and comfort are abundant in the God-centered life. As Job asked his grieving wife, so we must also ask ourselves, with contentment, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10). Surely we must accept both.
What kind of suffering are you presently enduring? What is your current struggle? What brings you indescribable pain? Meditate on the above truths and let God dispense His grace to you in the midst of your pain to produce future fruit for His glory. The grace you receive from Him during this time will be stored up for the day in which someone else will need it.
Your friend and fellow sufferer, Paul