“… 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 have received from God.”
— 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, niv
The problem of suffering, or as C. S. Lewis called it, “the problem of pain” has troubled believers for centuries. In fact, an entire book of the Bible—Job—addresses the issue of enduring pain and sorrow. Why does God allow us to go through heartbreaking times of tribulation? Have you ever asked that question? Have you ever cried in despair to God, desperately asking, “Why?” Maybe you’re experiencing suffering even now. And if you’re like the rest of us, you want nothing more than to purge yourself of all pain, trouble, hurt, and sorrow.
Despite our desperate cries, God often doesn’t remove troubles and sorrows from our lives. Why? Because God uses suffering to prepare us for helping others. Through our troubles and sorrows, God molds us into sympathetic and compassionate people. The Bible speaks of comforting those in trouble through the comfort that we ourselves have received from God. Only those who have endured the shadow, who have known suffering and trouble, can adequately comfort others.
In the Old Testament, when a man was ordained to the priesthood, he had water sprinkled on his head, his hands, and his feet. We who are the priests of God, in the universal priesthood of all believers in the new covenant, experience a baptism of tears that prepares us for the office of sympathy.
Where did Paul get the wisdom to write his comforting epistles? Where did David get the inspiration to write those solacing psalms that play such an important role in every believer’s life? Where did John get the foresight to write that tremendously hopeful conclusion to the book of Revelation? Each one of them gained the ability to comfort others by experiencing his own tears.
If you know someone experiencing hard times right now, comfort that person. Pray for him or her. Show sympathy and compassion. And if you are enduring a difficult time, don’t view it as a hopeless, needless tragedy. Perhaps God is using your trial to prepare you for an important work. Ask God today to transform your sorrows into sympathy and empathy.