“(God) comforts us in all our affliction…” (2 Corinthians 1:4a)
Recently I was watching an interview with an author of a new book who made the case that, in America, over many years, we have come to expect a pain-free life. Many of us will do almost anything to avoid pain of any kind. The opioid epidemic is evidence of this reality: someone has an injury, then surgery, then prescribed medicine, and finally addiction to the prescribed painkiller.
The question may be rightly asked…”If a stove is in front of me, should I not touch it to avoid pain?” Well, of course. However, in our society, we have come to expect even more. In America we have come to believe that a pain-free life is a good life. However, this is not necessarily the Christian worldview. What does the Bible teach about pain and suffering?
First, God is, at the very core of His character, a God of comfort to those He loves. “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.” (1 Corinthians 1:3) Just like a loving parent who scoops up his or her little child into their arms after they scrape a knee, God longs for us to come to Him when we are hurting and afraid. “He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6) And He does comfort us: “…through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4c) This truth has huge implications for the Christ-follower. We can always know that when we come to Him, He will comfort us!
Second, there is a greater purpose for our afflictions than just trying to avoid pain. The author of 2 Corinthians, Paul, writes that God comforts us “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction.” (1:4b) The only way that God can comfort us is if we have been in pain in the past. Then we know what it is like and we are in a position to be able to comfort others. When pain comes into our lives, what kind of a difference would it make if we see this pain filtered through the hands of God to us with one of the purposes to be available to someone in the future who may have a similar experience? We should never pretend to be able to know exactly what someone is feeling. However, when we have been through a similar event, it may bring another person comfort speaking with someone who understands.
Third, it is helpful to realize that we can endure much more than we may believe. Having grown up in America, have you unknowingly been conditioned to limit pain and discomfort rather than respond to it in the biblical manner discussed here? This may be an area of prayer for you and even an opportunity to teach those closest to you how to handle pain when it comes into their lives.
As I finished watching the interview on television, I was encouraged by the fact that God has given us, as Christ-followers, the blueprint for how to respond to pain and difficulties in our lives. We may feel all kinds of emotions and want to blame others, but at the end of the day we can rest assured that God has our best in mind and He wants to use all experiences in our lives to draw us close to Him and to be a blessing to others. How will you respond to the next “pain event” that comes in to your world?
William “Carey” Northington of One Master Ministries in Xenia may be contacted at www.OneMaster.org.