As God’s people, let us agree on the fact that we will suffer. This is a fundamental part of our calling: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Phil. 1:29). We are living in difficult times. God’s people are suffering, people are hurting. Empty words will avail them nothing. People need a tangible touch of God upon their lives.
But first the question begs, Why must we suffer?
The Apostle Paul, who himself suffered much, has probably the best answer to this. It is lengthy, but clear enough. He says: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.” 2 Cor. 1:3-11
I believe God wants to declare His sovereignty in our lives. We must keep in mind that God is spirit and He operates in the spiritual realm. He allows us to reach the end of our physical lives then, through the faith that is Christ Jesus, He enables us to turn to Him and look to His supernatural salvation, redemption, deliverance and provision. That is the comfort He desires to give us.
The flesh is there, of course, and it wants to follow its own, rebellious, ‘alternative’ way. If we listen to the reasoning of the flesh we will be confused, for God clearly says that His ways are not our ways.
If we are going through an incredibly impossible situation, let us look to Jesus. He alone can give true spiritual comfort. And, as we see from Paul’s words above, there are men and women of God who have gone through the pain we are going through, and who have experienced God’s comforting hand upon their lives. These are men and women who persevered because they experienced a revelation of the Cross in their hearts; and they can impart to us the comfort we need. The Cross is the wisdom and power of God, and it is men who carry this revelation who can bring life to the Church.
It was for this reason that Paul became of incalculable spiritual benefit to the suffering Church of the first century.
When we are walking the narrow road of the Cross we can be assured that whatever “tribulation” we go through we will be comforted with a comfort that comes from above.
To Paul, that comfort was of greater value than the fickle ‘comfort’ that the world affords. He says: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Cor. 12:10
What do we say when we are tested above measure?