It was as if I heard from the mouth of God this morning when I read my e-mail. First, an encouraging note (via facebook) from a dear old friend, and then this, from my pastor friend in the Philippines, who is facing flood-ravaged land. God, who could have just ignored me or told me to stop my whining and grow up, instead lovingly and in His infinite mercy, gently explained the following to me:
Scripture: II Corinthians 1:3-4 "Blessed be God ... Who comforted us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort that we ourselves are comforted by God."
Paul declares that God comforts us in all of our tribulations so that we may be able to comfort others who are in any kind of trouble. Hardships are not fun, but they work together for good in our lives to bring us to a better understanding of the situations that others are facing. We can't give others hope for the mountaintop if we haven't successfully made it through the shadows in the valley. We can't direct someone through a tunnel of depression if we haven't experienced the darkness of a wounded spirit ourselves. Nor can we mend those with a broken heart if we've never experienced disappointment. We could never understand the anxieties of those who are facing financial lack if we have no understanding in that area. And how could we ever be touched with the physical suffering and pain of others if our own infirmities had not birthed compassion in our soul?
Comforting others is a ministry in itself, for out of the greatest pain comes the sweetest songs of assurance. The hard places in our past show us how to bring deliverance to the wounded. The emotional trials that we have faced allow us to be able to be touched by their feelings. And because we have cried, we know how to wipe away their tears. Because we have faced dry desert places and then experienced God in fresh new ways, we can assure them that God will also prepare a stream in their desert. Because we have gone through grief and sorrow, we can assure them that their season of joy will come again. Because we have been weary ourselves and have carried heavy burdens, we know how to encourage and lift their heavy load. And because we have found it necessary at times to lean on the prayers of others, we are able to give ourselves easily to intercession when prayer is needed.
The hurting never run to those who have never suffered. And likewise, those who need counsel and a Faith Filled Thought never seek out those without experience. We are not above our Master. Jesus suffered and was touched by the feelings that we would experience and was tempted in all of the temptations that He knew we would face (Hebrews 4:15). He gave Himself to pain so that He could become a valid comforter through the Holy Spirit. So, even though suffering is hard for us, it brings with it an education that is of greater benefit than earning a degree. Suffering creates a dwelling place in our heart for the compassion of God and it develops a skillfulness that enables us to minister according to the will of God. At the end, we are able to agree with the Apostle Paul and say,
"Blessed be God ... Who has comforted me in all my tribulations so that I may be able to comfort others who are in any trouble."
Thank you to all my dear friends, and maybe some I don't even know, who pray for me. I want to be able to comfort anyone who needs it. If YOU need comfort, first seek God. Then, I would love to pray for you or hear your story. Leave a comment.