When we experience tragedy, we long to make sense of our hardship. We long to find a positive reason for why we lost our loved one, for why our friends betrayed us, and for why the very core of our being was rocked by evil. We want a reason. Like Job, we want to know why God allowed our hearts to be broken.
Quite often as the pain of the storm begins to recede, we start throwing ourselves into causes. Those who lost babies begin looking for ways to start a grieving mother ministry. Those who were unjustly fired begin employee advocacy groups, and those who lost a loved one to drugs begin championing every drug rehab facility in town. Often we do these things because we want to ascribe a cause to our suffering. We want to be able to say, “I suffered X Y and Z so that A, B, and D would happen.”
And at one level it is good for us to draw upon our experiences to help others. Paul says that he suffered many things in part, “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. 2:4). Paul was almost killed for his faith so that he could care for others who are going through tragedy.
When we suffer and find comfort in Christ, we do have a powerful thing to share with others. Those who have lost babies have unique opportunities to care for others who have lost babies. Those who have had home destroyed by alcohol have an amazing platform from which to care for others who have been abused by a drunk husband. And those who have suffered through their wife’s infidelity can speak powerfully into the lives of other couples that have been rocked by sexual sin.
But notice what Paul says. He says that he suffered so that he could encourage others in ‘any affliction.’ Paul was implying that our dependence upon Christ through suffering is transferable to any and all suffering because the solution and the hope for all who suffer unbearable hardships is Jesus Christ.
Please do not miss this. The reason you suffer, the reason evil touches the very core of who we are is that God is calling us to himself. God is allowing evil into our lives so that we can draw closer and closer to him. This is the point of James 1, Romans 8, and the book of Job. As Kent Huges wrote,
The assurance that he can do all things and that no purpose of his can be thwarted is the comfort that I need in suffering and the encouragement I crave when terrified by evil.
The hope for those who suffer, the reason we get up in the morning, the ability to keep going after we have been touched by evil is this:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him
– Lamentations 3:22-24
God is our refuge, our reason for living, our meaning in the midst of despair. If we seek to finding meaning amidst our tragedy outside of Christ, we cheapen the very hope of the gospel.
I know this first hand. There is no ministry, there is no success, and there is amount of recognition on this earth that makes the death of my first-born son worthwhile. I would happily sacrifice all of them and you to get him back. I miss him dearly. But I have hope because I have God and because I know that God’s love for my son is even greater than mine because Christ died for him. The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in Him.
I hope and pray that you can say, “that the Lord is my portion.” Resist the temptation to make some part of you trial your portion. Resist the temptation to make sense out of your sorrow by your own actions. Trust the Lord.
Practically going forward, I encourage you to remember both your suffering and the fact that God is the solution to your suffering. And then, use the opportunities that God has given you to comfort others. If you are a NICU nurse who lost a baby, then by all means draw upon God’s faithfulness in your life to teach others how to care for grieving mothers and fathers. If you are a police officer who has seen God’s faithfulness on display through your son’s drug addiction, depend upon God’s faithfulness to shape your drug rehab program. But if you are cupcake store owner who just survived a patch of infidelity in your marriage do not give up your business to start a marriage counseling service. Minister to those whom God has put in your place. As Paul said, our suffering prepares us to help all others as they suffer hardships in a variety of complex ways.
God never intended for our crisis to become our passion. Christ is to be our passion. Is he yours?