We all occasionally suffer. Some hurt more than others but all of us experience pain in different ways at different times. We also helplessly witness others suffering. At some point you will want to ask: Why? Why am I or why are they going through this? Where is God when we suffer?
I ran across these verses in the Bible during my own period of suffering. I was looking for answers, but God had something else in mind.
God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. What does that mean?
A woman had both knees surgically replaced at the same time. This is difficult surgery for one knee but for both at the same time? Excruciating! Our church surrounded her throughout the painful ordeal, and she was grateful. So grateful, she told everyone in detail what happened during and after her surgery. She could talk for hours about her ordeal.
Shortly after her surgery, the hospital asked her to volunteer. When someone was scheduled for knee surgery, they called her. She immediately and enthusiastically drove to the hospital to spend hours with the patient telling him/her about her surgery and how she recovered.
I noticed something watching her. She provided much needed reassurance and comfort to someone facing difficult and painful surgery. And, she had a wonderful time. I believe those hours spent with the patient strengthened her as well. Ministry does that.
- A couple who couldn’t have children of their own, started a Christmas Parent program providing Christmas for hundreds of needy children.
- A nurse, caring for her dying mother expressed frustration and loneliness following her death. She then started a grief support group to help others dealing with grief.
- A man dealing with prostate cancer started a support group to provide vital treatment information and spiritual encouragement to other men.
- A group of young women cared for my mother shortly after my dad died. They were members of MOPS, Mothers of Pre-School children. My mother had been a volunteer mentor providing encouragement for them so they in turn provided comfort for her.
Our two churches are full of people who quietly visit and provide comfort during suffering. These actions are seldom publicized, but they represent our true ministry as followers of Jesus.
A chaplain shared ways any of us can provide comfort. Three practical suggestions:
- Be in regular prayer, lifting up people who need God. Prayer matters. Often during our time of prayer, we receive needed encouragement and creative ideas.
- Be alert for opportunities. When talking with someone be attentive. Look beyond the superficial. Are they really, okay? Listen carefully and prayerfully.
- Visit someone who is sick or feeling down. You are not there to solve their problem, but your presence can provide much needed comfort and support.
Years ago, near Jarratt, Virginia, there was a house fire. A mother and three children were trapped inside. The mother and one child survived but two of her children died. Our church provided clothing, a place to live, furniture and other support. A few weeks later, the mother and her child visited during Sunday worship. She arrived shortly after the service began and found a seat near the front row. It was soon obvious she was upset and confused, plus her child was becoming more fidgety.
Totsy, my wife’s mother quietly slipped beside them with a smile. She stood beside the young lady and whispered encouragement. When the child became restless, Totsy gave him attention, all with a warm smile. Whenever I think of my wife’s mother, I remember how she helped a suffering young family feel welcomed and loved during a time of tragedy.
When I think about what it means to be in ministry, I think about suffering and the people who offered comfort when needed most. I think about the ministries formed because someone saw a need and found a way to provide. I think about an amazing God who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.