May 23, 2014
By Skip Heitzig
Last year, a monster tornado over a mile wide tore through the town of Moore, Oklahoma, destroying hundreds of homes and buildings along a 17-mile path, including an elementary school. Twenty-four people were killed, nine of them children. The city’s fire chief spoke for many when he said, “I just pray and thank God that it wasn’t worse than it was.”
Tragedies like these affect the entire nation, as TV news footage airs and video recordings flash the pictures everywhere in seconds over the internet. But tragedy is all around us all the time, although usually the suffering is more private, like a child with a congenital disease, or a marriage falling apart, or a lost job.
At such times, and especially when tragedy strikes our own lives, we’re tempted to ask, “Why, God?” As Christians, we’re not immune from suffering—despite the pat, simplistic answers some Christians give to those going through trials: “You just need to exercise your faith!” “God healed me; He’ll heal you!” Maybe He will…or maybe not. Remember the story in Acts 12, when both Peter and James were imprisoned. Peter was delivered, but James was beheaded. So if God chooses not to heal or deliver or protect, the pat answers are inadequate at best, and can be very cruel.
My simple answer to the question, “Why do Christians suffer?” is “I don’t know.” But I know this: People with broken hearts don’t need reasons; they need resources. They need someone to help bear the burden, and to walk with them under the load.
That’s where you come in, especially if you have suffered in the same way. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “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 tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” God doesn’t comfort us just so we can be comfortable. He comforts us so that we can become comforters. So we are to receive God’s comfort, and then to give that comfort to others.
How do we do that? As Romans 12:15 says, we should “weep with those who weep.” Our example is Jesus. At the gravesite of Lazarus, He knew He would raise His friend a moment later, but still He wept. And we should “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). And we should always “pray for one another” (James 5:16). And remember: Don’t just pray for them. Pray with them.
Right now, I’m sure you know someone who is suffering. Comfort them with the comfort you have received from God. Pray with them. Weep with them. Help them carry the load. They may never know, in this life, why the suffering came. But they will know the love of God as you show them His comfort.
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