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.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Affliction and suffering are a God-ordained part of the normal Christian life.
One of the reasons God ordains affliction, suffering and illness in the Christian’s life is that he or she can in turn help others who are going through similar affliction, hardship and illness.
Many Christian groups have dedicated “Healing Services”. Typically, the pastor calls the diseased, disabled or despairing person to the front and claims their healing in Jesus’ name.
However, in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, we read that God has ordained that Christians face affliction for a purpose – to help, encourage and comfort others facing affliction.
It may well be God’s will to heal the diseases, disabled or despairing Christian (through miracle or medicine), but that’s God’s work not ours. We should certainly pray for God to heal people, but it’s always with the caveat, “Your will be done, not ours”.
It may also not be God’s will to heal as God may have an even greater purpose in mind.
Pastors certainly do not have the power or authority to claim healings in Jesus’ name.
Thorn in the flesh
In 2 Corinthians ch. 12, the Apostle Paul prayed earnestly for God to remove the thorn in his flesh. God replied, “No. My grace is sufficient for you. My power is seen in your weakness.”
Prosperity-Gospel, health-now churches can’t deal with suffering and affliction.
I have friends who are missionaries. Their adult daughter was part of a Prosperity Gospel church in the northern suburbs of Cape Town.
Sadly, their adult, Christian daughter was diagnosed with cancer.
She informed the church leadership of her diagnosis and the pastors “spoke life” over her and, by faith, claimed her healing.
She remained ill.
After a while, she was told not to speak to her parents about her illness as her parents would only “speak death” over her – when all her parents were doing was to ask how their daughter was coping.
Five years later, the cancer became much worse and she was again admitted to hospital.
She phoned her pastor to say that she had had enough of the promises of healing and that he should rather pray that God would take her home to heaven.
The pastor refused to pray for that as it was against his theology and that night she died.
Thankfully, she is now at home in heaven.
For the last five years of her life, the loving parents of a cancer-stricken, emotionally-taxed daughter, could not talk to their child about her illness or comfort her. Apparently, they would have been “speaking death” over her.
The Prosperity Gospel is evil and poisonous, but it’s very popular and prevalent.
Those caught up in the Prosperity Gospel are profoundly unprepared for when suffering and affliction (inevitably) come their way.
Sharing in Christ’s sufferings
For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
2 Corinthians 1:5
Christians are called to share in Christ’s sufferings.
Of course, in some ways, Christ’s sufferings were unique.
As Christ suffered and died, he atoned for all the sins of all God’s people for all time. Christ made propitiation towards God and satisfied the wrath of God for our sin.
Our suffering, however extreme, can never do that.
However, we share in Christ’s sufferings in that just as the world was hostile to Christ, so too the world will be hostile, in various degrees and ways, to those connected to Christ.
Firstly, we face suffering because we are fallen beings living in a fallen world.
Secondly, we face suffering because, as Christians ,we share in Christ’s sufferings.**
Nevertheless, we are confident that all our suffering and affliction is in the providence of God and is for our good and the good of God’s people.
For your comfort and salvation
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.
2 Corinthians 1:6
The Apostle Paul says, “Whatever happens to me, whether triumph or tragedy, is for your good. Even your salvation.”
Are you suffering?
God can use your suffering for his glory, and for you to comfort others with the same comfort you have received from God.
Have you lost a loved one?
God may use you to comfort someone who lost a dear friend or family member.
Have you been terribly ill?
God may use you to comfort someone who is terribly ill.
Have you been divorced? Do you struggle with depression or a psychiatric disorder? Have you been through a time of tremendous financial strain? Have you been deeply hurt by people in a church?
God may use all these things to bring comfort to those who need it.
Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian author, profoundly said, “It is by those who have suffered that the world has advanced”.
The Apostle Paul would have added, “It is by those who have suffered that the cause of Christ has advanced”.
**Imagine having the advertisement on your church’s website: “Come and share in Christ’s sufferings! Guaranteed!”