Suffering hits like a bag of bricks. One moment life is normal, the next your whole world is falling apart. Last week two planes crashed into each other mid-air in Alaska, with at least 5 killed, including one Australian. Now families are left in anguish, having lost loved ones.
Death and sickness are, of course, only some of the suffering we can experience through our lives. And, so often, our feelings tell us that no one cares. There’s no purpose or hope.
Our feelings, however, couldn’t be more wrong. There is someone who cares and offers hope through our experiences.
‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God’ (2 Cor 1:3-4).
God does not stand aloof at our sufferings. He cares. He comforts. He provides – moments to grieve, necessities of food and drink, people to put their arms around us, his Word of hope, a listening ear. He is the Father of all mercies and the God of all comfort. He never abandons his children in their suffering.
And in all this, he prepares us to comfort others. Each moment of suffering shapes us to be more like Christ, who is gentle with the sufferer (‘A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench’ – Isaiah 42:3).
We call all put our arm around a sufferer and encourage them to hold on to Jesus. But how much more precious are the arms which have been where we are and held on to Christ themselves? Your suffering is not without purpose.