About a week and a half ago I made a post on the book of Ruth. I noted, among other things, how God worked in and through the suffering of Naomi to bring her to a place of blessing. God uses our afflictions to do some of his best work in us and through us. He uses struggles to shape us and make us into the image of his beloved Son.
But one of the things I failed to really consider was the way the Lord comforts us while we are going through difficulties. While mourning the death of her husband, Naomi had her two sons to give her consolation. When her sons passed, she had the love and faithfulness of Ruth to hold her up.
When we go through personal tragedies God is faithful to his own to give them comfort, often in the form of people around them, most notably the church. Brothers and sisters in Christ are the instruments God uses, along with the personal presence of the Holy Spirit, to buoy our sunken spirits. In a bit of irony, it is the very experience of past suffering and knowing God’s comfort in suffering that the Lord uses to comfort his people. Paul, writing to the church at Corinth states:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).
We who have been hurt most deeply have not borne it for nothing. There is purpose in the pain. There is a reason for our affliction. In part, to shape us and form us into the perfect image of Christ, too be sure. But more than that; to supply the comfort of the Lord to those who are presently hurting, so that those who are burdened with sorrow may know the joy of the Lord through our being there with them.
This doesn’t mean the hurt and heartache will vanish. We aren’t promised that in this life. But we can know the Lord’s gracious comforting touch while we experience sorrow. Paul puts it this way concerning his response to his own sufferings, “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). This is possible through God’s help, as his people respond to those who are hurting with the comfort of Christ.