In Times of Trouble

God is right there in the middle of our suffering. And He's up to something amazing.

When I was a young boy, I fell and skinned my knee. I was scared because it hurt, but I was even more worried about what my mom would say. I was sure she’d be upset because I’d torn a hole in my new trousers. As I came through the door crying, she rushed to help me. Instead of being angry about my ruined pants, she hugged me and said everything was going to be all right. Then she cleaned the wound, applied some medicine, and blew on it to ease the sting.

That’s how the Lord wants to minister to us—as a mother comforts her child (Isa. 66:13). But we miss His comfort if we think He’s sitting in heaven just waiting for us to mess up so He can judge us. That would be like my mom meeting me at the door saying, “I told you not to run, but you disobeyed me and ruined your trousers. Now I’m going to punish you.” Do you see how inconsistent this picture is with a loving parent who wants the best for her child? In order to experience the fullness of God’s comfort, we need to understand who He is, how He works in our adversity, and what His consolation accomplishes.

The Trinity works together to minister to us.

The prophet Isaiah wrote that the Lord comforts His people and has compassion on the afflicted (49:13). God knows everything about your situation and cares for you right in the midst of your pain, confusion, and anxiety. When you don’t think you can take another step, He strengthens you to keep going and encourages you not to give up.

Since Jesus came to live on the earth, He understands and empathizes with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). That’s why He issued this invitation: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). In His interactions with people who hurt, He always demonstrated compassion. Christ didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11). He offered emotional and spiritual healing to the woman at the well (4:7-26) and restored the sight of a poor, blind beggar (Luke 18:35-43). Even when Jesus was about to return to His Father in heaven, He promised to send a Helper, or Comforter, to believers (John 14:16-17). The Holy Spirit is the one who dwells in us and comes alongside to aid and embolden us. 

God never participates in our pity parties. They only magnify our problems and draw our focus away from Him.

Feelings can be misleading.

Why do we sometimes not feel consoled? One problem might be our misguided expectations. No one enjoys adversity and pain, so understandably, we want them to end as quickly as possible. If this doesn’t happen, we may react with disappointment, frustration, anger, or  bitterness because God promised to comfort us, but we still feel awful and wonder, Where is He? Why isn’t He helping?

When I’m hurting, I sometimes say to God, “Lord, I can’t handle this anymore. I want out!” But I’ve never heard Him say, “Poor Charles! You’re right. This is too hard, and no one appreciates or cares for you.” God never participates in our pity parties. They only magnify our problems and draw our focus away from Him.

The Lord has a divine purpose for every hardship He allows in our lives. Psalm 119:67-77 describes a few of the benefits that come to us through trials. First of all, affliction draws us back to obedience after we’ve gone astray (v. 67). Second, in our suffering, we learn God’s statutes or principles (v. 71). This means we gain a greater understanding of His ways. Third, we recognize that the Lord’s judgments are right and in faithfulness He has afflicted us (v. 75). When we know and trust God’s nature, we’ll realize that He always works for our best, even through affliction. Then the psalmist says, “O may Your lovingkindness comfort me, according to Your word to Your servant” (v. 76). Notice that God’s comfort comes through both His love for us and His Word.

Do you find consolation in God’s love for you even in the midst of your pain? Trials have a way of drawing our attention downward onto our circumstances, causing further discouragement, anxiety, or even anger. However, if we deliberately set our minds on the promises in God’s Word, we’ll find reassurance to sustain us in our afflictions.

When we gain a scriptural perspective of who God is and what He is doing, we’re in a prime position to experience His aid. That’s why Paul could call Him “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3). If he hadn’t ever suffered, he would never have discovered the power of the Lord’s heartening and sustaining solace. Through all his trials, Paul learned three important truths:

1. God is enough. Our heavenly Father comforts us “in all our affliction” (v. 4). For a believer, no situation is beyond the reach of His consoling presence—even if your spouse says, “I don’t love you anymore” and walks away. Or if, after faithfully working 35 years for the same company, you are laid off. Or if your child receives a diagnosis of terminal cancer. In all these agonizing situations, God is with you to relieve the awful sense of sorrow, brokenness, and despair.

When we know and trust God’s nature, we’ll realize that He always works for our best, even through affliction.

Our biggest problem in dark valleys is that we struggle to believe God is enough. When Paul was suffering with a “thorn in the flesh,” the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Paul’s response is amazing: “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” Because he believed what the Lord said, he found comfort even though the pain was still there.

2. God is equipping us to care for others. Another truth Paul learned is that having experienced the Lord’s support in our suffering, we are then able to “comfort those who are in any affliction” (1:4). Although He employs various means to deliver encouragement, people are a favorite instrument. After walking through challenges, we are qualified to share God’s love by cheering on the discouraged, lifting up the burdened, and reaching out to the hurting.

3. God’s comfort results in patient endurance. It’s only natural to want the Lord to fix our problems and heal our pain, but Paul says that God’s comfort enables us to patiently endure whatever we’re going through (v. 6). He may not change the situation, but He does change us through it. And this, my friend, is something that should compel us to view our difficulties in a completely different light.

That’s why the best response to adversity is to say, “Lord, I’m all Yours. Do whatever You choose with me and my situation. I’m trusting You to encourage and comfort me through this.” Instead of letting anguish drive you to despair, let it draw you to the Lord. He’ll strengthen your faith with His Word, shower you with His love, and encourage you to trust that His grace is sufficient for your need.

 

 

Adapted from the sermon “The God of All Comfort” by Charles F. Stanley

Related Topics:  Gods Love

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13 As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you will be comforted in Jerusalem."

13 Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people And will have compassion on His afflicted.

15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

28 Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court,

4 they said to Him, Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.

5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?"

6 They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.

7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

8 Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.

10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?"

11 She said, No one, Lord." And Jesus said, I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more."]

7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, Give Me a drink."

8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.

9 Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered and said to her, If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, `Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."

11 She said to Him, Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?

12 You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?"

13 Jesus answered and said to her, Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again;

14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."

15 The woman said to Him, Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw."

16 He said to her, Go, call your husband and come here."

17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband." Jesus said to her, You have correctly said, `I have no husband';

18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly."

19 The woman said to Him, Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.

20 Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."

21 Jesus said to her, Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

25 The woman said to Him, I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us."

26 Jesus said to her, I who speak to you am He. "

35 As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging.

36 Now hearing a crowd going by, he began to inquire what this was.

37 They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.

38 And he called out, saying, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

39 Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

40 And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he came near, He questioned him,

41 What do you want Me to do for you?" And he said, Lord, I want to regain my sight!"

42 And Jesus said to him, Receive your sight; your faith has made you well."

43 Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God.

16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;

17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.

68 You are good and do good; Teach me Your statutes.

69 The arrogant have forged a lie against me; With all my heart I will observe Your precepts.

70 Their heart is covered with fat, But I delight in Your law.

71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.

72 The law of Your mouth is better to me Than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

73 Your hands made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.

74 May those who fear You see me and be glad, Because I wait for Your word.

75 I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.

76 O may Your lovingkindness comfort me, According to Your word to Your servant.

77 May Your compassion come to me that I may live, For Your law is my delight.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer;

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself!

8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.

9 And He has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

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