Sunday, January 15, 2012

Purpose in our afflictions . . .

I love the Bible verse that describes God’s comfort to us as something we can pass on to others.

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 will 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, emphasis added)

This truth has brought encouragement both to suffering Christians and those who must see them suffer.  Persevering in affliction through faith can bring marvelous unexpected results.

An ICU nurse once told me that a major experience that pointed her to Christ was seeing Christians in her ICU die differently from others. In the peaceful spirit of their dying, these believers pointed the nurse to Christ.

A personal example is my friend Jane, who died a week ago. My wife and I have lived in Dallas for several years, while Jane lived in Maryland. We saw Jane only occasionally but knew she was battling metastasized cancer. Jane sent email reports and prayer requests to women friends, and Barbara forwarded many of them to me.

The praises and prayer requests in Jane’s emails illuminated her trust in God.

The emails praised God for the benefits and victories He conferred on her and her husband in the midst of the battle (though the battles won did not in the end add up to victory over the cancer). She regularly expressed gratitude for her medical team, and happiness in the love shown her by her husband and family. Especially she expressed appreciation for the family things they were still able to do together.

Jane’s prayer requests commonly asked for wisdom and definite information with which to make wise decisions. She rejoiced that there were choices to make and paths to choose. She did not complain when a path ended and other choices had to be made.

In short, Jane comforted us by showing that in potentially fatal struggles God will make paths for us and lead us to the Good Place and joyful reunions.

Jane exhibited strong faith, but Scripture shows us that even a hesitant faith will do.

Remember the father who brought his son to Jesus and asked that the boy be delivered from an evil spirit? The evil spirit was making the son voiceless, throwing him into seizures, and even hurling him into fire and water to destroy him.

The father pleaded with Jesus,

. . . if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”(Mark 9:22 ESV, emphasis added)

Jesus responded,

If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23-24, emphasis added)

Quickly choosing, “Immediately the father cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ Jesus delivered the son from his affliction.

Jesus now has delivered Jane from her affliction and shown us a trustworthy path to follow. God was good to show us through Jane that He will comfort and lead us, and equip us to comfort and encourage others to seek His leading in any kind of fight.

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