With acts of terror seemingly ever-present, the terrible pain and suffering in this world seems permanently on display. And of course, the questions resound everywhere: "Why did this happen?" "How could God allow this?" As Christians, we should avoid any pat, simplistic answers to questions like these. My own response is always, "I don't know." God is sovereign, and we won't know why in this life.
But one thing I have found to be true: People with broken hearts don't need explanations. Even an explanation from God would not heal their broken heart. They don't need reasons, they need resources. Observing, analyzing, and philosophizing about suffering does little good. Instead, we need to become ministers of His mercy, to help others bear their burdens.
When we suffer, we may not see what good can come out of it, or any reason for it. But I can assure you that one purpose God has for our pain is so that we might be a blessing to others who go through the same things. Our concern should be for others. Your life is woven into many other lives. Whether you know them intimately or casually, you have the opportunity to minister to them.
When life crumbles around you, you desperately need God's grace, comfort, and mercy. Then you are a reservoir, as He pours all of that into you. When you receive God's comfort, it produces trust in Him. It reminds you of His plan, and His care for you in the past. And it enlists the help of other Christians, as they comfort and pray for you.
But after you have been comforted, you become a channel to dispense God's mercy and comfort to others who are hurting. When you observe grief in others, your eyes must go off yourself, and you must use all of what God has given to you, and dispense it to others (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
As God's people, we ought to be one of the greatest sources of comfort whenever others are struggling. We ought to be the ones with outstretched arms. We, as the church, are the body of Christ. We can serve as His mouth and His hands to those who are suffering. We can touch people in the name of Christ, becoming that channel through which God can work in comforting them.
God comforts us not so that we can be comfortable, but so that we can become comforters, compassionate instruments of His mercy. When you experience God's comfort through suffering and loss, that comfort is wasted if you don't use it to comfort others. If you reach out to comfort, that's more effective than any sermon! The most effective minister of comfort is one who has gone through the same thing.
So where do you fit in? Here are three practical ways:
1. "Weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15). Grieve with them. Sometimes the greatest sermon is silence.
2. "Bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2). Come alongside the weak and help them carry the load. The Good Samaritan is a great example of this.
3. "Pray for one another" (James 5:16). This helps people focus on the fact that God is in control. And may I add: Pray with them, not just for them.
Be that source of comfort, as God has comforted you!
And if you're reading this and you don't have a relationship with Christ, know this: God can comfort you because He can relate with you. Jesus sympathizes with you (see Hebrews 4:14-16) because He experienced life as a human being. He knows what it's like. And God can relate because He Himself lost a Son. We serve a God who knows what it's like to suffer.
So you too can know the God of all comfort, who will refresh you, help you, and strengthen you whenever you encounter suffering. His love for you is so great that He sent His only Son to suffer death in your place. Won't you come to Him today?