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Jesus Will Meet You There
- June 08, 2017
- Chris Lawson
On Saturday night, I was on a plane ride home from Texas as citizens in London were losing their lives to terrorists.
It is happening too often.
To be honest, these too frequent events bring forth a mixture emotions – but mostly confusion and anger.
Lately I have needed to remind myself about God’s relationship with suffering. Although the world is broken and brings with it brokenness and suffering, I have needed to remind myself that we can have hope because Jesus understands and is our great comforter.
One of the major themes throughout Scripture is how should a Christian faces suffering. In fact, the problem of evil and suffering is at the center of most skeptics’ questions about the validity of Christianity. Skeptics ask, “How can God be all good and all powerful, yet suffering still exists in the world?” And, if we are being truthful, it is at the center of most believers’ questions, too. Most assume that when bad is happening, God is far away. The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, suggests there is another answer. Yes, it’s long. But, yes, it’s worth it!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
Paul mentions suffering five times in this text, but mentions God being a God of comfort ten times. One of the major themes in 2 Corinthians is Paul’s defense of his apostleship against the many attacks of the false teachers in Corinth. Remember, Paul was not one of the original 12 disciples – instead he was added to the ranks of the apostles later by Jesus. In the opening section of 2 Corinthians, Paul defends himself against the false charge that his trials were God’s punishment for his unfaithfulness – instead he suggests that our suffering is a result of the world’s brokenness through universal sin that was introduced by the “one man, Adam” (Romans 5:12). Paul makes the point that God was comforting him in his suffering, not chastening him. We often think that God is far off when we are suffering, but “when we suffer trials of any kind” (James 1:2-4), we can be assured that God is near to us, doubling His effort to comfort His children. This passage at the beginning of 2 Corinthians is one of the most significant passages on suffering in all of Scripture.
Paul suggests that one of the ways God redeems the suffering of humanity is by using it to change our reliance from self-reliance to reliance on “God who raises the dead.” God promises us that He will turn the suffering our enemy meant for our destruction for our good. This is seen in God’s redemption of Joseph and his family even after his brother sold him into slavery. Paul reassures us of this truth in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Consequently, in 2 Corinthians 1:9 Paul says, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” Paul is suggesting that one of the ways God redeems our suffering is by using it to change our self-reliance. When God meets us in our suffering it is a reminder that God is our source of peace and comfort – we should rely on him.
When there are unanswered questions, Jesus meets us and bring comfort to cover our suffering. When terrible things happen around us as a result of God’s creation being broken, Jesus steps into that space and brings comfort.
When we draw our attention to this truth we learn from the stories of Scripture: “Comfort comes best when the one offering comfort has walked through the same story.” This is good news for us! Jesus faced great suffering – suffering as the perfect lamb of God that we will never fully understand. Consider the words of Isaiah 53:4-5, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
We can find comfort in our own suffering because we know that Jesus’s comfort is more than sufficient. He first suffered for us, so he understands the comfort we need in our seasons of suffering.