In a couple of weeks, I will speak at a conference on the theme “Meeting the God of all comfort in our trials.” My text will be the book of II Corinthians.
In the opening verses, we find an invitation to praise the God of all comfort.
“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 in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (II Corinthians 1:3-4).
I realize that trials take many forms, but when it comes to physical and emotional suffering, it’s easy to become accustom to faster solutions than previous generations experienced. Amazing advancements in science and medicine have strengthened our expectations for quick resolution to our pain.
But how do we respond when doctors are unable to accurately diagnose our condition? Do we become more impatient when we believe that technology and medicine should be able to get to the root of our needs?
What happens to us when we have unrealistic expectation for health and emotional happiness? Are we more easily disappointed and discouraged? And do our expectations of technology and science sometimes cloud our engagement with the God of all comfort?
This kind of disposition toward suffering could also cause us lose touch with the considerable emphasis in Scripture on the role of sadness and suffering in life with God.
These are not theoretical issues for me. When my father (who recently passed away) came down with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis in his mid-thirties, I learned what it meant to carry a burden for a suffering loved one. I was only about 12 years old but it profoundly shaped my life. I learned so much about God’s sustaining grace and His redeeming power to bring good out of pain and suffering.
I continued to learn about the role of trials in a more personal way when I prepared for pastoral ministry. At the beginning of the journey, a pastor reminded me that those whom God uses greatly, He tests greatly. I had no idea at the time what this meant but now I understand. Further, as a pastor with almost 30 years in ministry, I have walked with many people through all kinds of trials and suffering.
When faced with difficult and unexplainable trials, I look to the God of all comfort who comforts us in our troubles. I’ve learned to trust that suffering has a greater purpose even when I cannot see it. I pray with one eye on the back-story of human depravity and another (by faith) on our hope-filled expectation of the glorious end-story for forgiven sinners like me (see: Colossians 3:1-4).
Normal Christian living involves groaning inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).
When God’s loved ones enter the place He has prepared for them, ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-6; John 14:1-3).
I find myself longing more and more for this day; for this place and for our God.