The great tragedy of trials is not going through them, but rather going through them and not learning anything from them. God permits, and sometimes even sends, trials our way so that we can steward those trials for the benefit of others. The apostle Paul alludes to this truth in 2 Corinthians 1:4. He said,
“Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
Notice three principles from this verse:
The Principle of Suffering
Paul used the word “tribulation” to describe the affliction we face as believers. This word speaks of pressure, persecution, and pain. The Christian life is not exempt from such sorrow. We should not expect convenient Christianity. We seem to understand affliction as part of the human experience until we actually have to go through it; it is then we question and wonder why the pain and agony must exist. We may even wonder if God cares, and if He does, why He allows it into our lives. But without hardship we would have a difficult time measuring joy and contentment. Suffering is our lot, and it always will be here on earth.
The Principle of Solace
The suffering we endure is met with the very solace of God. He is the God of all comfort which means that all comfort originates from His goodness and compassion. Therefore, the tribulation is ironically a valued treasure seeing that it is accompanied with the mercies of God. This is the way Paul viewed his thorn in the flesh. He said, “There was given me, a thorn in the flesh.” Paul considered the thorn a gift because it ultimately revealed the sufficiency of God’s grace. It is in the hour of our greatest pain that we often experience our greatest peace. The hardest groanings produce the hardiest growth. As Richard Swenson says, “Anything that redirects us to God is a benefit.”
The Principle of Stewardship
Therefore, we are forced to ask the question, “For what purpose is this particular trial?” Paul supplied the answer, “…that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” We experience the comfort from God so that we will be able to comfort others who experience similar suffering. The comfort we are able to extend to others is a direct result of the comfort we have first been given by God.
In his book, The Painful Side of Leadership, Jeff Iorg contends, “Sometimes God allows us to experience pain so we can help others with similar problems. An aura of authenticity, created by the scars on our souls, connects us with the deepest hurts of others. There is no shortcut to being equipped to offer genuine comfort to hurting people. Wounded people give the best comfort.”
Wounded people give the best comfort…perhaps this is why Christ is the greatest of Comforters. He knows our pain and sorrow, and offers peace through the sympathy of His own experience; He therefore redirects us to impart that very peace to others with similar needs. Be a good steward of your trial, realizing that God not only brings you comfort through it, but affords you the opportunity to be a comforter by it.
“We are always on the anvil, by trials God is shaping us for better things” –Henry Ward Beecher