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This is the last part in my series on suffering. The Greek word for suffering is most often translated as tribulation, (something that causes distress.) Suffering can involve minor troubles, or major crises. It’s really how we respond to these difficult times that tells a lot about us. Hopefully, each time we come through a challenging situation, we are better equipped to handle the next one. (And there will be a next one.)

2 Corinthians 4: 16-18 says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Light and momentary? Surely you jest…you certainly cannot be talking about my gigantic predicaments, can you?

I guess we all feel that our troubles are anything but light and momentary. They’re heavy and seem to last forever. But the goal is to get to the place where we “don’t sweat the small stuff.” When we have survived some pretty devastating situations, we are stronger.  We really are. (“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”) He says there’s a greater glory coming that far outweighs anything we’ve been through. So if you’ve had a lot of trouble, you’ve got a lot of glory on the way!

Our hurtful and challenging experiences no longer leave us as incapacitated, because we have weathered so many storms already. That doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the pain. It just means that we’re no longer down for the count. We are a little more resilient each time, because we’ve been through a lot, and we know that God is faithful.

And then we are ready to help others through their hard times. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says, (referring to God), “Who comforteth us in all tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

That’s another one of the redemptive qualities about suffering. When we are comforted, and we survive the crisis, then we can give comfort to others who are going through something similar. Who can comfort us like someone who’s been there? We don’t want to hear lectures from someone who read about life in a book. We want to hear from someone who’s lived it! Those are the people we feel we can trust–the ones who can bring us hope and comfort. The word for “comfort” there means to console, encourage and strengthen, to call to one’s side.

To give comfort, we must not be afraid to reach out and draw people in. Sometimes just sitting next to someone and listening is the greatest ministry of all. A hug, a pat on the back, a touch of the hand–these things are sometimes more effective than all the words that could be spoken. People don’t always want answers, lectures, or speeches. What they really want is closeness and love. Just be there. It makes them feel less alone and isolated.

Once we have been through really painful times, we are not so critical or judgemental of others. We know what it is to hurt so badly, and we feel empathy and compassion towards others, as a result of our own suffering. Peer counseling is so effective. I believe that is why grief boards are so helpful. You have people that understand the pain, helping others and encouraging them that they will get through it. (But not over it. No one wants to hear that.)

The Bible tells us that we can cast all our care on the Lord, because He cares for us. It says that He is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble. We can trust Him, in good times and bad. He says, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Even when it seems impossible to go on, He will make a way…

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