April 17 I Tuesday
2 Samuel 1-2
“… so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received 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 arises when we experience suffering. Why is this happening to me? Why do I have this illness, or 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?’”
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 in comforting and blessing others. None of us are exempt from pain and suffering, and because we have an instinct of self-preservation, we live with this sense of “what is best for me?” That is natural and good, but if we understand that loving others overrides looking after ourselves and that in our suffering, God comforts us so that we can comfort others, we begin to see our situations from an entirely new and strengthened perspective.
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. Jesus tells us the second greatest commandment is, “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). One of the great privileges in life is to enrich other people. When we bring God into our circumstances and understand that loving our neighbours comes first, Christ becomes our strength to deal with our struggles, which then equips us to be a source of blessing to others. This involves a reorienting of our lives from “what is best for me?” to “how does this equip me to benefit others?”
Suffering is part and parcel of life. Paul says in Romans 8:39 that nothing separates us from the love of God, and nothing need separate us from the comfort of God. It is especially in our sufferings that we need to pray for the interests of Jesus Christ, and trust Him to bring about His purpose in them. When we adopt Paul’s disposition towards sufferings and depend upon Christ, that destructive force can become a creative force. 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 suffering. Thank You for comforting me and for giving me the chance to share that comfort with others. In Your holy name.