Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
There is a progression to suffering and comfort here. We suffer in all kinds of ways as inhabitants of a broken world. And when we do, God comforts us in only the way He can. But then the progression extends beyond us – we are comforted not only for our own sake, but for the sake of others because we can then extend the same comfort to others.
The comforted become the comforters, and so the progression goes on through the saints of God in His church.
I’ve heard it said that God takes your misery and makes it your ministry. That feels a little crass to me, especially when “misery” is really the best way to describe some of the troubles of life. Deep, heart-wrenching, future-altering troubles should not be treated so glibly as this. And yet the truth remains – in the redemptive hands of God, our suffering can become the most painful of gifts we can give to God’s people.
And it is painful. When you have suffered deeply, sitting with someone in a similar situation, even years later, is pain. These are the moments when you know what it means to weep with those who weep, because you relive your own experience vicariously through someone else. These are the times when it’s a fight to believe in God’s promises, each one claimed is done so through the dirt and grime of the battle of life.
The temptation, I believe, is two-fold when one has suffered deeply. On the one hand, that person is tempted to withdraw. To push their pain deep inside of them and to never bring it up again. Sure, they might have friendships – even close ones – and yet the topic of their suffering might never come up. Instead, it just sort of looms in the background.
Though it might seem like the more comfortable road, it is not the path to true healing. That kind of healing comes, in part, when you are able to give this most painful of gifts to others in the body of Christ – to share what comfort you have received from God to others in a similar circumstance.
But there is another temptation. It’s the temptation to, ironically, minimize the suffering by broadcasting it far and wide. To immediately start jumping in front of whatever person or group you can to talk about that experience. Your intentions might be good, but experience tells me that this oversharing is also just another means of self-medication, because when you’re talking about your pain all the time to whoever will listen you don’t have to sit alone with it and process what has changed your life. The gift you think you’re giving comes off as trivial, rather than hard fought and deeply believed.
Let me urge you – don’t withdraw. And let me urge you – don’t treat it too lightly. Instead, sit with the Lord. Feel the warmth of the gospel wash over you, and when you don’t feel it, speak to your soul the truth of Jesus anyway. When you come out of that time, as one who has been wounded deeply, then you are equipped to give this most painful of gifts to the rest of the body of Christ.