Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“When life is hard, we cannot help but ask if this is the abundant life Jesus came to earth to give us. We will only experience full life in the glorious freedom that awaits us on the new earth and new heaven, but meanwhile, my life has tastes of the rich and bountiful living that He wants to give us, even in the terribly hard things. My instinct is to avoid suffering whenever possible, and when it can’t be avoided, to hold my breath until it goes away. But you can hold your breath for only so long, and I had to come up for air a long time ago. As we reject pain avoidance and choose to live fully in the midst of suffering—even if it means feeling more pain—we are opened up to God and experience His power in our pain. In a failed world, suffering is a key element to living life to the full.
I hear Christians say that God is good (because) “He delivered me from . . . ,” (because) “He provided . . . ,” (because) “He answered prayer . . . ,” (because) “He opened up a parking space . . . ” If I followed that same line of reasoning, I couldn’t say that God is good. He didn’t answer my most heartfelt prayers. He didn’t spare my son; and He didn’t save my daughter’s life. I have found that when God’s gifts are not the reason I give Him thanks, I rediscover that God is good.
In affliction, our trust in God is deepened because suffering tests and affirms our faith in His goodness and trustworthiness. In good times, we experience God’s goodness in the good things He gives us. In hard times, we experience His goodness through His tenderness, mercy, and loving compassion manifested to us in the midst of suffering. God is not sometimes merciful and sometimes just; He is eternally and infinitely just and merciful and good in all that He is and does. From that reality spring our hope and comfort in suffering.”
Peggy Reynoso in “Formed Through Suffering” in The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2016) 193-194.
God’s generosity is rooted in who He is and not in what He gives us. Sometimes He allows us to endure suffering. In these times we learn about and experience His compassion.
As agents of generosity, we get to minister to those in suffering with the same compassion that God extends to us. When we ourselves go through tough times we get to show others how to hold on to God.
This is the hard side of life that many want to avoid. As Reynoso notes, “suffering is a key element to living life to the full” and because God is with us, hope and comfort spring forth despite difficulty.
To grow in generosity, next time you suffer, attune to how God is deepening your faith and touching you with compassion. This will enable you to give others the generous gift of compassion when they suffer.
Going up to the mountains and reading books like this one helps me get perspective. Perhaps a fresh change of scenery could help you see things anew today. Get outside and see what happens.