Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Comfort in Suffering

You walk in the hospital room and find the family in tears. You know their situation. The pain and suffering are great. What can you say--what will you say--to try to comfort them?

I found out first-hand last week that the only real comfort comes in acknowledging God's sovereignty in suffering. By this I mean coming to terms with the truth that God does not merely permit suffering but that he actually designs it.

This does not sound all that comforting at first. But what other answer can we give? If God is merely allowing suffering, we might wonder how sovereign he really is when it comes to agents of suffering like sin and Satan. Or, we will question his character, asking ourselves what kind of a God he really is. What point is he trying to make in allowing us to suffer? I have found little comfort in pondering the answer to that question.

But Paul said that his physical suffering ("a thorn in the flesh") was given to prevent him from exalting himself (2 Corinthians 12:7). That does not sound like a reason why Satan would induce suffering. Rather, God had graciously done this for Paul, so that rather than boasting in himself he would boast in Christ: "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Do you see that? Paul would rather suffer if it would allow him to exalt in Christ. So in designing suffering, God has graciously helped us to desire him more than the fading pleasures of this life. Now that is an act of love by a loving God.

And that has been bringing me and my family comfort ever since we heard the news in the hospital room.

1 comment:

Curtis said...

Good word, my friend!