The beeping of the alarm rouses me from a deep sleep. As I open my eyes and stretch and remember, reality crashes in. It has been about two months since my husband of 37 years died of congestive heart failure in this very room. The pain I awaken to has many faces—loneliness, palpable sadness, fear of the future and anxiety that is impacting not only my emotions but my body. These are dark days of the soul, a kind of suffering I have not known before.
Fast forward five years. As I reflect on that period of my life, I can affirm Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 that say, “God is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction.” At my lowest point, when I was practically paralyzed with grief, I knew that my Father was holding me. I imagine that everyone reading this blog has been in that place in some fashion, but you may or may not have sensed the comfort of God in your suffering. I would like to share three things from our 2 Corinthians study that, hopefully, will be helpful as we encounter suffering.
First, it is unavoidable. This may not sound very helpful, but I think embracing the fact that we all suffer is a real part of living on planet earth and is a vital part of our healing process. Understanding this universal truth helps us not to blame ourselves for the emotions we are feeling because they are part of our human experience. A healthy theology of suffering is an essential component of our journey with the Trinity.
THE KEY IS NOT TO AVOID SUFFERING, BUT TO LIVE THROUGH IT WELL.
Second, the Father promises He will not leave us. Hebrews 13:5 says, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” He goes further in 2 Corinthians 1:10 by declaring that, “He will yet deliver us.” The Father is so faithful to remind us of His presence and care whether it be through a timely phone call or text, a much-needed word of encouragement, a hug, a dream or supernatural encounter with the Holy Spirit.
Third, as we experience freedom from our seasons of suffering, 2 Corinthians 1:5 tells us that we are to start becoming instruments of comfort to others. After Ron died, my friend, Margie Atwood, was a tremendous help and comfort to me. Her husband, Darrell, had died six months earlier and she was gracious enough to be an instrument of healing for me even as she was on her own journey.
So today, regardless of where you are experiencing suffering, please know you are not alone. God is at your side. Be attentive to His voice as He comforts you as only He can and as He leads you to others who need to receive comfort through you.
Pause and listen to this song, and let it be an encouragement to you.
By Penny Allison – Women’s Pastor