by Matthew W. Bassford
There are all too many people who want to hold God to promises He’s never made. They get sick, and they blame Him for not keeping them healthy. They run into financial hardship, and they grumble because He hasn’t helped them prosper. They’re single and unhappy, and they claim it’s His fault that they aren’t married.
The problem is that God never has promised Christians that they would be healthy and rich and have great family lives. We might have set our hearts on these things, but that’s a sure sign that we are seeking treasure on earth, not in heaven. The God who unfailingly grants them is the God of our own imaginations, not the God of the Bible.
However, God has made us some astounding promises, and one of them appears in II Corinthians 1:3-7. He does not promise to shield us from suffering. Indeed, the structure of the passage implies that the godly can expect to suffer. Nonetheless, in the midst of that suffering, God will bestow His comfort.
As do all Christians who have sought the Lord through trial, I’ve experienced God’s faithfulness to His promise. It is true in my current distress, and it was true 13 years ago when my daughter was unexpectedly stillborn at full term. Lauren and I suffered. Indeed, we suffered greatly.
Our suffering, though, did not overwhelm us. We did not commit suicide. We did not get divorced. We did not become alcoholics or drug addicts. We avoided the double disasters that befall parents who lose children.
This is not to our credit, except to the extent that we chose to lean on the Lord and His people. Instead, it was due to the brethren both far and near who cared for us in our grief. They came to the funeral (some traveled hundreds or thousands of miles), they brought food, they visited, they sent cards, they sent money, and they prayed. It was due also to the God who worked through them and in ways beyond my understanding. We mourned (and still mourn), but we were (and are) comforted.
However, Paul points out that this blessing carries an obligation with it too. We are supposed to take the comfort that God showers on us and use it to comfort others. Lauren and I certainly were on the receiving end of this. Some of the most memorable, helpful conversations we had during that dark time were with Christians who also had lost children.
Ever since, we have tried to pay it forward. Most Christians are at a loss about how to deal with others whose children have died. We aren’t. That’s a familiar country to us. When we hear of someone in that position, we try to reach out. We call. We write. We attend funerals with heartbreakingly small caskets. We trust that the God who used others to bless us will use us to bless others.
It’s easy for human beings to camp out in their misery and affliction. I know the temptation well. However, as disciples of the Man of Sorrows, we have a higher calling. We must allow our griefs to refine us and teach us compassion. When we do, God can use us in even the greatest tragedies to reveal His comfort and love.