What is the Point of Suffering?
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Yes, it’s an over-asked question, but it still warrants a response.
The suffering of any kind is not usually welcomed, but when we suffer, we can use the stories of deliverance as a means of comforting others.
God uses our pain, heartache, weaknesses, and struggles in order to create opportunities for authentic conversation with other humans who share in similar pain, heartache, weaknesses, and struggles. When we feel the comfort of God in our times of trouble, we know exactly how to turn around and comfort others.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by Christ” (2 Corin 1:3-4).
The contrite saying “thinking of you” isn’t all that comforting. This is a cliché that offers no real empathy. How much better is it to hear the wise words of someone who just went through a similar experience? That person can relate. That person can offer greater understanding. That person can meet you where you are.
Even though negative circumstances are difficult in the moment, we can view them with a positive outlook when we see how God can redeem them and re-shape them as opportunities to help others. This passage shows us the meaning behind God’s comfort. Whenever we feel relief, condolence, compassion, or reassurance, we recognize how to provide that same level of comfort to someone else.
During college, I went through a pretty horrible breakup. No, it doesn't compare to many stories of suffering, but it caused pain in the moment. It was a breakup that happened to end an on-and-off again relationship. I was frustrated, confused, disappointed, and upset. I didn’t understand God’s greater point to the present affliction. Six months later, I had some clarity.
While working at a camp that next summer, I met a sixteen-year-old girl who was just dumped by her boyfriend. I was twenty-one. I had just five more years of experience with dating, but I had a better understanding of how the Lord worked to heal my broken heart numerous times. She confided in me. She shared the story of their breakup, and with tears, she asked for advice on how to move forward.
During our conversation, I could meet her where she was by telling her my own story. I could sympathize and comfort. I understood how it felt to be dumped as a junior in high school. Heck, I understood how it felt to be on the opposite side of the breakup, too. I remembered the drama of a high school breakup and the lingering questions of a college breakup. I could speak from personal experience and offer comfort in a way that others in her life couldn’t. I was just close enough to the suffering, but I was not completely involved.
We prayed over her love life together. We prayed that God would continue to comfort her when she left camp. We exchanged numbers, and she even wrote me letters as I continued to work and she went home.
Instantly, I felt comforted, too. I knew that God had used my own suffering to help someone else in a similar struggle, and for that, my suffering had merit. It had a bigger purpose. It was redeemed.
Use the pain in your life to relate to someone else. It requires vulnerability. It requires wisdom. It requires love. However, the more we break down barriers and speak honestly about what causes us heartache, the more God can work in our own situation and someone else’s situation.
I love that God is the God of all comfort.
Comfort is a gift we freely receive, so it is a gift we should freely give.