“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and 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 receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
Why do we suffer? Well, there are a number of reasons. First, we suffer because we live in a fallen world. This suffering affects everyone. Death and sickness are all around us, and everybody is touched by it. Secondly, we also may suffer because we are followers of Jesus. He suffered, and He said we would also suffer. This suffering comes in the form of persecution. In John 15:18 and 20 Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” Thirdly, we may suffer because God allows Satan to test us. Remember Job? And finally, we may suffer as a consequence of our sin. Remember David?
James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, worked in the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles where he saw all kinds of difficult situations. He witnessed children dying of cancer every day. Many of those children died in the arms of their Christian moms. Dr. Dobson often had to bring comfort to those who mourned the loss of a child. In his book, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense,” Dobson chronicles the heart-wrenching stories of many of these children. Dobson encourages all believers to hold on to their faith even when it doesn’t seem to make sense.
When God doesn’t make sense, when something is going on in your life that makes you question God, what do you do? Is God no longer God? Is He no longer the One you can trust? Can you still rely on His faithfulness? Who do you turn to when God doesn’t make sense? Jesus said in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Have you lost heart? Are the troubles that you’re facing so great that you feel overwhelmed?
Habakkuk lived during the time of Jeremiah and just prior to the capture of Judah by the Babylonians. Habakkuk knew that God was going to use wicked Babylon to punish the Israelites. In Habakkuk 1:1, Habakkuk cries out to God, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?” Are you crying out day and night and wondering where God is? Do you have questions concerning the faithfulness of God? We all need to come to the place where Habakkuk ended up. In Habakkuk 3:17-18, he said, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
Over the next two weeks, we will take a look at 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 and see how Paul directs us to shift our focus from the trial to the One who can overcome and carry us. Consider this during the coming week: Where is your focus? Are you looking to Jesus and His Word, or are you focused on the trial and the pain that it is causing?