Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The Paradox of Suffering
The Christian life is one of paradoxes. In II Corinthians 1:4 we read "Who comforts us in all our trials, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any distress by the same comfort that we ourselves receive from him." Paul declared here that God comforts His children in times of tribulations. How? We are not told exactly; it could be through the ministry of Christian friends, certainly through the Scriptures. Christ promised He would not leave His followers orphans but that He would send the Holy Spirit to be their Comforter (John 14:16-18). Here Paul emphasizes the constancy of God's comfort. It is not temporary or spasmodic. This verse could well read: "Who always comforts us...." Here is one paradox, affliction and comfort appear to go together, but not without purpose. The very comfort that is received in times of suffering brings with it an understanding of why the comfort is sent in the first place. It is not only for the one who is comforted, it will also, through that one, benefit others. It is a reassuring thought that the constant comfort of God attends the overflowing sufferings that may come the believer's way. In II Corinthians 1:5 we read "The more we share Christ's suffering, the more of his comforts are overflowing towards us, through Christ." When the sufferings of Christ are present in abundance, the comfort is present in superabundance. God always gives more than He takes. Paul is saying here that although the sufferings of Christ seem to be present in abundance, even to overflowing, the comfort and encouragement for enduring the trial is more than abundant. Our union with Christ may be the cause of affliction, but it is also the source of consolation. Apart from Christ, suffering often leads to despair rather than comfort. I write these daily devotional thoughts from my life experiences. I just went through a trial whereby God came through in the nick of time. It is my personal experience that God loves taking me to the wall, (If He doesn't show up I'm dead meat), where there is no way over and no way around and then He make a door, at the last minute, and allows me to pass through. However the Lord reminded me, He has given me a reprieve, but my trails are not over, I still walk in a robe of flesh, I still face daily struggles, and I still have an enemy (Satan). I believe God in His sovereignty gives me exactly what I need to keep me dependent on Him. I identify with King David who said "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your precepts." I can attest to the fact that I would be totally wiped out apart from Him, and because of the comfort I have received in my trials, He, at times allows me to comfort others in their time of need. How are you doing with your present trial? Are you clinging to Jesus, receiving the comfort the the Holy Spirit, allowing believers to minister to you? Perhaps you have become bitter and you feel hopeless? Please ask the Lord to comfort you in your present distress. "He is an ever present help in the time of need." Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.