December 29 I Tuesday
“… so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
—2 Corinthians 1:4
In 1981, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book entitled, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. The book is a response to the “why” questions that often arise when we experience suffering. Why is this happening to me? Why do I have this illness? Why did I lose a loved one? There are no easy answers, but Kushner adopts a different focus. He writes, “All we can do is try to rise beyond the question, ‘Why did it happen?’ and ask the question, ‘What do I do now that it has happened?’”
Suffering is part and parcel of life. None of us are exempt from pain and suffering, and because we have an instinct of self-preservation, we live with a sense of “what is best for me?” While this is natural, when we understand that loving others overrides looking after ourselves, we begin to see our situations from an entirely new and strengthened perspective. This involves a reorienting of our lives from “what is best for me?” to “how does this equip me to benefit others?”
When experiencing suffering of any kind, our natural instinct will always be to fight our way out, but if we think our priority should be ourselves, we will never understand the role of suffering in our lives. One of the great privileges in life is to enrich other people. Jesus tells us the second greatest commandment is, “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). It is in our sufferings that we especially need to pray for the interests of Jesus Christ, and trust Him to bring about His purpose in them. When we bring God into our circumstances and understand loving our neighbours as ourselves, Christ becomes our strength to deal with our struggles, which then equips us to be a source of blessing to others.
Paul writes in Romans 8:39 that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God,” and nothing will separate us from the comfort of God. When we adopt Paul’s disposition towards sufferings and depend upon Christ, that destructive force can become a creative force. Paul says we experience God comforting us in our suffering, not only to benefit ourselves but so that the comfort we receive from God may become a means for us to comfort and bless others. Suffering is actually productive and God’s Spirit in us will give us a different focus in which the wounds of our lives can become the ministry of our lives.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, only Your Spirit within me can turn my focus to others in the midst of my suffering. Thank You for comforting me and giving me the chance to share that comfort with others. Praise You!