She had gone through a very difficult divorce. Her two children were hurt by it as well. They were 8 and 12 – difficult ages to begin with – their pain and disappointment now greatly magnified by their father’s abandonment. The boy, especially, struggled in school and in social settings.
Then one day she went to a divorce recovery group with the children in tow. There were other children there who were dealing with the same pain as they were. He was so relieved to learn that he wasn’t alone suffering in this way. His face brightened. He wasn’t as completely different as he had thought.
Paul speaks of the manner by which God comforts us and allows us to comfort others:
Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who is compassionate and the God who gives comfort. 4 He comforts us whenever we suffer. That is why whenever other people suffer, we are able to comfort them by using the same comfort we have received from God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When we suffer we can easily look for reasons why. We think that if we can just know why we’ll experience some relief or at least be able to deal with the pain a bit better. It is true that if we can discover a reason for the suffering we’re enduring, we may be better able to handle it. We can suffer if we know there will be a good result. We can suffer if we’ve brought it on ourselves.
All too often, though, we suffer for no apparent reason, or for no good reason. Sometimes we suffer unjustly. Those times of distress and trouble undercut our confidence, and can lead us to despair.
When we realize, however, that our suffering not only produces endurance, character, patience and hope, we are better able to go on. Add to that, the comfort that God brings us when we mourn, (cf. Matthew 5:6), or the ways he brings people alongside of us to encourage us and keep us going, and we have the makings of a blessing we can give others.
God comforts us so that we may comfort others. Whether it is a young boy walking into a room and meeting other boys who are facing the same disappointment and pain of their parents’ divorce, or a family being carried through a tragic loss of a loved one by acts of kindness, love, and mercy, those who have been comforted are well-suited to comfort others. In fact, our comfort is not only for our own good. And the real outgrowth of that comfort occurs when we take the blessing we have received and pass it on to others.
There is much more to say about this, and I look forward to sharing it in future posts.