Reading: 2. Cor. 1:3-11
“For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” 2. Cor. 1:5
Paul says the hardships he suffered in the province of Asia were far beyond his ability to endure, so that he despaired even of life (v.8). Why does God allow tribulations in the lives of His saints?
First, it could be discipline. When flocks return home, if a little lamb strays away to eat grass of its choice on the wayside, the shepherd might whack it mildly, only to discipline it, to say that you have eaten enough from the green pastures and it is time to go home! Disciplining is to repent and retreat!
Holding the hands of his mother, three-year-old Johny was strolling in a public park. Seeing boys and girls playing on amusement rides, Johny wanted to try one, but mother said it was only for big boys. Johny was sad. While his mother was talking to somebody, he sneaked away and joined the big boys. They encouraged him to try the ride which resulted in his falling, face down. Seeing Johny with a wounded nose and blood-oozing mouth, the big boys were frightened and turned away as if they had done nothing. Johny ran back to his mother, crying. Hearing the cry of the son, his mother rushed to him took him in her arms, washed his face and mouth and gave him some juice to drink. Now, Johny doesn’t want to go anywhere. He stuck to his mother’s breast and slept peacefully! Sometimes we are like Johny… Out of curiosity, we “test” things that God has not designed for us.
It is not that you endure hardships only when you make mistakes! A Military officer demanding of a newly recruited young soldier to run 5 Kilometres under the scorching sun is not a punishment; it is a part of his training. Hard training is essential to build the soldier up and ready him for battle.
Paul says that troubles have a sweet side too. “For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ” (v.5 NLT).
When we suffer, there is a comfort reserved for us. That helps us to even welcome sufferings!
One day my wife asked two of our younger daughters to bathe by themselves, as she was too busy with mission affairs. The elder one (5yrs) told the younger one (2yrs): “Let’s keep on bathing in cold water… and then we will become sick. And, when we become sick, our mother will find time to bathe us and she will not leave us alone!”
I am not advocating disobedience. However, the joy we obtain in being comforted by our Lord is enough to sweep away all the pain we suffer in our afflictions!
Here, Paul explains another reason why God allows afflictions.
”All praises to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (vv.4-5- NLT)
Only when we suffer, we receive comfort. Only when we receive comfort, we can meaningfully exhort others to receive comfort from Jesus.
At the time of the Serbian civil war, the victims of atrocities received food, clothing and comfort from a catholic convent. In tears, many young girls told the friars that they had lost their virginity as the soldiers trampled them to satisfy the lust of their flesh! The nuns would comfort them saying, “It is not your fault daughter, take it easy… God is with you!” Some were comforted, but some would not be. One girl said: “Sister, you can say this very easily. But, do you know what it is to be abused by a thug who is mad with his passions!”
The nuns did not have an answer for the battered girl. However, one day, the military marched into the convent too. They smashed everything in their way. They did not spare even the nuns who were angels of charity. The virginity they kept as more precious than their lives were torn in minutes.
Days went by in silence. None knew what to speak. Whenever they met at the corridors of the convent, they mourned and hugged each other. No singing and no shouting of Halleluiah… Only cries and prayers!
After a few weeks, one of the friars who were brutally raped apprehended the shocking reality that she was conceived! She was shattered at the thought of being humiliated as a pregnant nun! Life was a puzzle before her!
She spent days in anguish! Finally, she wrote a letter to the mother superior: “Mother, I do not understand why my beloved bridegroom allowed this shame in my life… I know I cannot continue as a friar anymore. God has given me a child, even though I did not ask for it. I do not know whose child it is… somebody’s! However, I believe that children are a gift from God! I leave the convent and go to the village. With my child, I will share the destiny of our poor sisters there. If I come across my young sister, who once asked whether I know what it meant to be abused and humiliated, I can say to her; ‘Yes daughter, I understand you.’ I can also say, ‘daughter, not just me… Jesus understands you…’ I know Mother, that I am still beloved to my bridegroom!”
Oh! What a faith! She knew that she was still beloved to Jesus!
I remember my “Hepatitis” days. The liver enzymes count was shooting up by the hour. I was dying! However, Jesus was a reality to me on my “deathbed.” I enjoyed talking to Him and hearing from Him. I was in the shadow of the almighty. I told Him that I was prepared to die or to live. He sent me back to life!
Why did I need to experience the pain and agony of the deathbed? When I look back, I thank God for those painful days of anguish… Now I can go to people facing death in sickbed, and say that Jesus can be a reality even when you are in the shadow of the valley of death!
Prayer: Lord, help me to receive comfort from you when I am afflicted, so that I can be an agent of your comfort for those who are afflicted!
Further reading: 2 Cor. 4: 7- 12; Ps. 34: 4-22