Suffering = Joy???
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.”
I Corinthians 1:3-5, KJV
“Blessed be God…the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation…for as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.”
This is the introduction of Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthian church. Right away, he blesses God for being the Father of mercies and a God of comfort. This sets the stage for the rest of the book, for in it, Paul enumerates all of the unthinkable hardships that he and Timothy faced on their latest missionary journey. In all of that, Paul, says, he came to know God as a God of comfort.
This teaches us an important principle. It is only through our struggles that we come to know God, in all of His different facets. We won’t know God as the Joy of our Salvation until He turns our mourning into dancing. We won’t know God as the Lover of our Heart until we are brokenhearted. We won’t know God as our Healer if we’re never sick. Likewise, we will never know God as our Comfort until we find ourselves in unbearable suffering.
Paul goes on to say this in verse 8:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.
They despaired of life itself! These heroes of the faith were sorry to even be alive! But Paul continues:
Indeed we felt as if the sentence of death had been passed against us, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He delivered us from so great a risk of death, and he will deliver us. We have set our hope on him that he will deliver us yet again,as you help us by your prayers.
They had a sentence of death hanging over them, they were despairing of life itself, but… Paul knows why! He saw beyond their present despair and knew the PURPOSE of their pain. It was “so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises from the dead”. Though they despaired, they knew Who their God was… a God who raises from the dead!
Do you have hopes and dreams that have died? Has your very heart died inside of you because of pain and suffering? Are you feeling under great pressure, far beyond your ability to endure? My friend, God is a God Who raises the dead!! He will raise your heart from the dead and make your hopes and dreams come alive again. Surrender your heart to Him. Surrender the death of your dreams to Him. He WILL raise you from the dead!
Going back to verse 6…
“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.”
Full of the sufferings of Christ, and full of comfort from Christ. The more suffering that they endured, the more deeply they knew the comfort and consolation of Jesus.
Something that people hear me say frequently is, “The deeper the sorrow, the deeper the joy.” And this is so true! No matter how deep the sorrow is that you may be experiencing right now, the deeper the joy will be when it comes. Also, the deeper the sorrow, the greater His comfort, and the closer His presence. It has been in my darkest, lowest moments that He has revealed Himself to me in the greatest ways. It was in these most difficult times that I truly came to KNOW Jesus.
I’m going to be transparent with you. Lately I feel Him calling me deeper, and I fear the sorrow that may come with it. Do you ever feel that way? Do you read about Paul’s struggles and fear that in order to be so greatly used in the kingdom you must suffer as he did? Do you ever fear that in order to draw closer to God He may take away the thing you hold most dear, so that you cling to Him only?
But I must deal with these fears…and indeed, I am, because more than anything I want to be closer to Jesus! I just finished reading Hinds’ Feet On High Places, and now more than ever I have the desire to go “leaping over the mountains and skipping upon the hills” with the Lover of my Heart (Song of Solomon 2:8). In this book, the main character is a pathetic creature named Much-Afraid. She is lame and has a crooked mouth. She is made fun of and despised by her family, but the Chief Shepherd loves her. He invites her to come to the High Places with Him, and she eventually accepts. She is terrified of the journey, but her desire to be close to the Chief Shepherd trumps her fears.
This is where I find myself right now. So desperately wanting to be closer to my Master, and fearing the journey at the same time.
But like Much-Afraid, I will say yes.
In fact, I’ve already said yes. I’ve already decided that knowing Him is a greater joy than any sorrow I may encounter on the way. So here goes! I feel like I’m jumping off the diving board, eyes closed and nose plugged, midair, unsure of the waters below. I’m diving in!
Paul dove in…and he saw wonders and miracles everywhere he went! He also knew Jesus as few have. And that was his chief desire! He writes in Philippians,
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
Philippians 3:8-10, KJV
I just want to know Him, Paul says!
Oh, that this would be my greatest of all desires! At all times! Sometimes it is…and other times I just want what I want. A good book, a cup of coffee, and lots of ice cream. When He is calling me higher, I sometimes miss the call because I’m too busy entertaining myself.
Ouch! I have work to do…or rather, God has work to do in me! But I take heart knowing this, that “he who has begun a good work in [me] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
And on those days that I say yes and feel the sting of the suffering and sorrows of this life…I also take heart, knowing that it is in these moments He holds me the tightest.
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Psalm 34:18, NKJV
Lastly, I want to clarify what I mean when I say that we will face sorrow and suffering when we draw closer to Him. Part of the suffering is just us dying to ourselves and our small dreams. It is the sorrow of letting go. Of trusting Another. Of opening our hearts and allowing Him to perform His “heartwork” on us. There is sorrow and suffering in this..but it is a pinprick compared to the sorrows of this world. We will have sorrow no matter what in this life. We think that we can cleverly navigate around it by protecting our hearts and building walls around us…but truthfully, sorrow always finds us. It is a fact of life. But instead of the worldly sorrow that is an empty, hopeless sorrow, godly sorrow works for our good and turns into joy! The fire of trials turns us into pure gold!!
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
2 Corinthians 7:10, NKJV
(Godly sorrow saves us, while worldly sorrow destroys us.)
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:2-4, NKJV
(Trials serve to perfect us so that we lack nothing.)
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Romans 8:18, NKJV
(There is a GLORY that will be revealed in us! Here on earth!)
But He knows the way that I take;
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
Job 23:10, NKJV
(Like a furnace that purifies gold, our trials purify us and make us beautiful.)
And finally, I leave you with the glorious truth of God’s goodness and His lavish love towards us!
You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11, AMP
All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change.
James 1:17, NET
Those who look to him for help are happy;
their faces are not ashamed.
Taste and see that the Lord is good!
How blessed is the one who takes shelter in him!
Remain loyal to the Lord, you chosen people of his,
for his loyal followers lack nothing!
Even young lions sometimes lack food and are hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Psalm 34:5, 8-10, NET
Yes, yes, yes!! We can trust in our God…He is our God of comfort, our God who raises from the dead, and our God who is always good to us! It is His good pleasure to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32)! He loves to give us good things and every good thing that we have comes from Him.
“Thank You, Jesus, for Your comfort in this life where we so oftentimes encounter sorrow. Thank You for Your faithfulness through every trial, and thank you that we will come forth as gold when You try us! Thank You that You are near the brokenhearted. I pray for my brothers and sisters today that may be brokenhearted, under greater pressure than they can even bear, and for those who may even be despairing of life itself. Be their Comfort, be their Lover, be their Healer! And Lord Jesus, give us the courage to go on this journey with You…to come closer to You when You call us to come away with You. Help us to know that we can trust You, and that You don’t delight in taking away from us, but You delight in making us more like You…in giving us hinds’ feet so we can go leaping and skipping over the mountains with You! We trust You, Jesus. We say yes to You today. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.”
Have you had experiences like this in your own life? When you have gone through sorrow and suffering on your walk with Jesus, has it turned into intense joy? Have you found that God does truly turn our mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11)? I want to hear from you!
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