Making Bad Things Useful!
Sometimes in life it’s hard not to question why God allows really awful things to happen in the life of His children. This is especially true when the suffering is occurring to someone who is very close to us. I think Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians shares some very helpful insights as it relates to the question, why God allows good people to suffer? Paul writes, “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 of our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow out of our lives so also through Christ our comfort overflows”,(v.3-5, NIV). Paul’s explaining here that God allows suffering into our lives so that we may be able to share with others the comfort that we have found in the Lord Jesus Christ. Suffering therefore becomes a bridge of ministry into other people’s lives. Let me illustrate if I may – I have had the experience of having about eight or nine kidney stone attacks. Whenever I am ministering to someone who is experiencing the same pain I can relate completely to that person. I can also be a reference point of hope to tell them that the pain will pass, even when it seems it never will.
Paul also in this passage connects our suffering as a link to the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul knew much about suffering in his own ministry. He had suffered greatly for the cause of Christ. But Paul speaks of the overflow of comfort that comes out of the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice in verse four Paul uses the word “all” to speak about how he had found God’s grace to sustain him in the face of many great difficulties. As Christ’s spiritual strength flows through us in the course of our suffering, suffering becomes a channel of ministry into other people’s lives. All of us will experience times where the dark shadow of doubt will creep in to our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and moments of great brokenness occur. And yet brokenness is God’s requirement for maximum usefulness. You see when we are going through deep times of suffering the Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered more than any of us could even imagine, becomes the source of hope and strength. Later on in this epistle Paul would speak about finding God’s grace to be sufficient for him when he sought the Lord about a thorn in the flesh. In fact we read his words in the 12th chapter- “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me”,(12:8-9, NIV). Paul suffered much for the cause of Christ but his sufferings were accompanied by the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ that overflowed into his ministry to other people. God gives comfort that it may be passed on to others in need of encouragement and hope. One of interesting paradoxes of our Christian faith is that the grace of God is not seen most clearly in the best of times but in the worst of times.
In the first year that I worked as a full-time Christian counselor in 1998 every part of our family life fell under satanic attack. There was deep brokenness beyond anything that I could even imagine or describe. During this time I was making my living seeing 30- 35 clients most weeks. Though I did not self-disclose what I was experiencing my clients would frequently tell the secretaries how empathetic a counselor I was. They had no idea what I was going through but since my understanding of their pain. But one day one of my clients, whose wife had left him for another woman, said to me, “You can’t understand what I’m experiencing, you have no idea what this pain feels like”. I did respond to his challenge by sharing what I was experiencing at that very time. He was shocked and responded, “But your counselor, you’re not supposed to have problems”. Always remember that Job did not experience the things that he experienced because of his sin. No, Job experienced the things that he experienced because of his righteous standing before God. Know that Satan seeks to sift and to destroy but God can use the channel of suffering to minister to other people’s needs. In fact in Paul’s continued service for Jesus Christ as he is in a Philippian jail he wrote a most amazing letter about rejoicing in the face of trials. One of the things that’s important for us to remember is what Paul said in the first chapter of Philippians when he said, “being confident of this, that he who begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”, (1:6 NIV). Know that God is working and moving through your life even in the face of trials and difficulties. It is all part of His plan to refine us into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. If Christ suffered so many horrible things shouldn’t we find comfort in the Lord Jesus Christ when we go through difficulties and trials? Knowing Jesus can empathize and bare our burdens under the most difficult of situations should be a great source of hope for us. I hope that you have found that you can cast all your cares on the Lord Jesus Christ, for He truly cares for you.
Pastor Rich Sivo