Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Suffering and Comfort

Today I'd like to share with you another excerpt I transcribed from the audio presentation Portrait of a Struggle by Paul Tripp. It's an encouragement and admonishment at the same time, as only Paul Tripp can do. The excerpt ends with several questions that give you an opportunity to examine yourself.

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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 ignorant, 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.
2 Corinthians 1:3-11

What you have in this passage is a theology of suffering and then Paul giving us a personal example.

Here’s the model: Suffering, Comfort, Suffering, Comfort. God brings us into suffering so we cry out for His comfort. Now filled with the experience of His comfort, we move to other sufferers helping them to get the same comfort that we have received. What is that comfort? That comfort is that I have something bigger than me, that I’m not in this life by myself, that I am not left to my resources and my wisdom and my strength. God Almighty has invaded my life, and there is hope for me. There is hope for me even though I yelled at my wife the other day. There is hope for me even though I have been impatient with my children. There is hope for me even though I am a student and I cheated on a test. There is hope for me even though under pressure I lied to my boss. There is hope for me because God is in my life, and He is pressing, pushing, hammering, sawing because He loves me. That is deeply comforting to me. But I know I am next to people who do not see Jesus. They look at their life and they do not see God. They look at their marriage and they feel like God has abandoned them. They look at their friendships and they feel like they are around disloyal people who, in their moment of need, are not there. They look at their boss and feel like he is never able to be satisfied. They look at all of that, and the one thing that is present in their life, they do not see. They do not see Jesus. They do not see His grace. They do not see His love. So, God will push me beyond me so I would cry out for God, so my eyes would be open to His presence so I could reach out to other people who are struggling with suffering and help them to see grace that has been given and the love that has been poured out. Here is the agenda. Suffering is God’s choice for you because He wants to change you. He wants holiness to be more valuable to you than your personal definition of happiness. He wants participation in His purpose to be more satisfying to you than getting your own way. Do you have realistic expectations? Do you get the plan? Are you doubting God? Are you doubting His love? Are you doubting His goodness? Are you questioning His faithfulness? Are you questioning even the truths of Scripture because you’re just not on God’s agenda page. Your expectations are unbiblical and unrealistic and they cause you endless heartache because you look at grace and you do not see grace. You look at love and you do not see love, and you feel alone and discouraged. Are your expectations realistic?

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