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Monday, December 08, 2014

The Purpose of Suffering and Comfort (part 1)


Adrian Rogers said that “Discouragement is a darkroom where the negatives of fear and failure develop.” How do we deal with suffering, hardships and not allow the feelings of fear and failure to develop? Bring in the light! This illustration draws it’s meaning from the old method of developing camera film in a blackened room. Any amount of  light destroyed the film negatives and the pictures would not develop--and this is exactly what we want to happen in this case! Destroy the negative! One way I do this is to be mindful that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.  

Paul writes, “For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (2 Cor 1:5) See, there are different kinds of suffering and there are different kinds of comfort.

“First world” problems is not suffering. Most people of the world don’t get to say things like, “I’m tired of all the restaurants near my office” or “My laptop is dying and the charger is in the other room” or “I have more clothes than clothes hangers.” That’s not suffering.

There are daily hardships, those unexpected accidents, crime, job situations. There are prolonged illnesses, diseases. Then there are the people we live with; you know, the “human condition” that seems to keep us in frustration. Difficulties, yes; but, we can choose our response. 

But then there are what we will call “Gospel hardships” and these are the at the heart of Paul’s statement. Have you ever invested in someone only to have them reject that investment? Not simply money, but the time, the advice, the love--completely rejected. Paul equates specific suffering with the work of the ministry, pouring one’s self into others and they kick back. Preaching the gospel at the expense of your life, even.

The promise here is that the more we suffer in Christ, the more God comforts us in Christ. What makes this work is our obedience to Him.

Charles Spurgeon asked his congregation to picture in their mind a balancing scale: in one side God puts our trials and struggles; on the other side He places our comfort. When the scale of trial is nearly empty, the scale of consolation is just as empty; but when the scale of trouble is full, the scale of consolation is just as heavy.  As the suffering of Christ abounds, so also the consolation. 

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