On Suffering and Comfort

Do you remember that one Bible verse about suffering? Wait, there’s lots of Bible verses about suffering. But what about the one that is sometimes pithily quoted at people who are wrestling with their faith? 2 Corinthians 10:13

Any temptation you face will be nothing new. But God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can handle. But He always provides a way of escape so that you will be able to endure and keep moving forward.” *

God promises not to give us more than we can handle. That’s generally how this verse is interpreted, but lately I’ve felt challenged to look beyond the manufactured “take-away” point and look for what that actually means. Christ endured all of our sufferings so we could trust that he understands our struggles (Hebrews 2:18, 1 Peter 4:1).

The theme of suffering is quite common in the context of Christ. Of course there is the temptation, crucifixion, and pain of separation of Christ, yet despite these things, His disciples were transfixed by the cross and message of Christ. Christ himself warned us there would be trouble, but not to worry because He wins in the end (John 15:18-19; 16:33), and in turn, His disciples share the same message. There are lots of passages concerning this (taking up your cross, suffering for Christ, being glad to die for Him), but today the following passage spoke to me (bold words selected by me): 

All praise goes to God, Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. He is the Father of compassion, the God of all comfort. He consoles us as we endure the pain and hardship of life so that we may draw from His comfort and share it with others in their own struggles. For even as His suffering continues to flood over us, through the Anointed we experience the wealth of His comfort just the same. If we are afflicted with such trouble and pain, then know it is so that you might ultimately experience comfort and salvation. If we experience comfort, it is to encourage you so that you can hold up while you endure the same sufferings we all share. unshaken and unshakable. That’s because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so you will also share in our comfort.

My brothers and sisters, we have to tell you that when we were in Asia the troubles we faced were nearly more than we could handle. The burdens we bore nearly crushed us. Our strength dwindled to nothing. For a while, we weren’t sure we would make it through the whole ordeal. We thought we would have to serve out our death sentences right then and there. As a result, we realized that we could no longer rely on ourselves and that we must trust solely in God, who possesses the power to raise the dead. 1Miraculously God Himself delivered us from the cold hands of death. We again place our hope in Him alone, and we know He will deliver us. 11 Join us in this work. Lend us a hand through prayer so that many will give thanks for the gift that comes to us when God answers the prayers of so many.

12 We are proud of the fact that we have lived before the world and especially before you with clear consciences, living holy lives mixed with genuine sincerity before God. We have not relied on any human wisdom but on the grace and favor of God. 13 We are not writing to you in anything resembling codes or riddles; we only write those lessons you are ready to read and understand. I hope you will study them, value them, and truly understand them until the end. 14 You have already begun to grasp what we mean in part; but on the day when our Lord Jesus returns, we will be as proud of you as you are of us.

 

Note in this translation of the text: “Some believe that prosperity and comfort are the markers of a faithful Christian; in order to believe that, you have to ignore completely the life and writings of Paul, the emissary. It is only when you suffer that you can meet God as your comforter. In these letters, and often in our own lives, it is when we seem to have come to the end of ourselves that we see and experience the fullness of God in entirely new ways. This is not to say that any of us should or would seek out the kind of suffering Paul experienced; we do not long to be imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, or hunted by authorities. But when our dark days come, we should be ready to learn, grow, and experience the fullness of God in the midst of our troubles.”

I completely agree. Lately I’ve been feeling as though God has been trying to get my attention, and I’ve been too upset to listen to Him. I’m upset that I still don’t have the friend I’ve been praying for literally for years, I’m upset that I don’t have a job right now, I’m upset that Chris is going to be gone a lot more than I thought this summer, and I’m just plain hurt that nobody seems to care. 

But it is through this hurting and endurance of things that aren’t ideal that God is giving me the opportunity to wrestle with my heart and see Him more clearly. He wants me to be stronger yet more vulnerable, able to endure more adversity yet have peace in Him increase, to identify with Christ by suffering yet be more comforted by Him in the process, and perhaps more aware of my woundedness yet more whole in my relationship with Him.

I can’t shake this feeling of conviction that teaching is what I am called to, but I’m still not sure exactly what that will look like. In the meantime, I’m still preparing for it and still dreaming of my first real classroom. We’ll see what happens. I am waiting.

 

 

*You may not be familiar with this version, but I am currently falling in love with it. It’s called The Voice, and you can find it on Biblegateway.com if you want to look up some familiar passages and see how they read. I enjoy the good vocabulary but relatable language it offers. I’ve also found it’s refreshing to try different translations on familiar passages so I can hear it again instead of blocking it out as overly familiar.

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