Updated: Apr 13
Sometimes I feel inadequate to comfort people in their times of distress. It is hard to find the right words to say to someone without sounding trite or insincere. This is especially difficult when someone is suffering in this world and the reason for it is out of our grasp. We, as humans, seem determined to know ‘why’ all the time. Tennyson wrote in his poem The Charge of the Light Brigade, “Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die”. Sometimes the ‘why’ is not clear, but should that keep us from doing our duty as Christian soldiers? When people suffer for their own doings, it’s easier to understand why. David suffered the loss of a child because of his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:14ff). Solomon was responsible for dividing the kingdom because he was led into idolatry by the women of foreign nations (1 Kings 11:1-13). Jonah tried to hide from God and he was cast into the sea (Jonah 1:3, 15). These men failed to follow God’s commands and they were punished for it. This is a basic morale standard-crime and punishment-and we can wrap our arms around it. But when it comes to people like Job, ‘why’ is harder to find. Job suffered simply because God allowed Satan to test him (Job 1:12; 2:6). Job was said to be ‘blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil’ (1:1). Why would such a man have to suffer? After all, he had not engaged in the same kind of actions of the men mentioned above, why was he tested? Job himself helps us to understand the ‘why’. In 2:10 he says, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” We have been subject to adversity since that fateful day in Eden when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. They were made aware of the expectations God had for them but they did not abide. As a result, they were punished and man’s relationship with God was forever changed (Gen. 3:14-24). Now we are subject to natural catastrophe, disease, molestation, murder, death, etc. Thankfully, while we are subject to sufferings while on earth, those who remain faithful to God are promised an eternal rest where there is no such suffering (Rev. 21:4). If we accept the good things from God in this life, we must also accept the things that test us. Our souls inhabit these earthly bodies; and these bodies are subject to the forces of this earthly realm. But these bodies are temporary, perishable. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that these perishable bodies will be changed to imperishable ones (vv.50-58). So while our trials on this earth weigh us down and test our spirits, we can take comfort in knowing that this is a very small amount of time spent in the life of our eternal souls. As we look to the bible for comforting words, certainly passages like Psalm 23 come to mind, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” But also consider how Paul comforted the Corinthians in his second letter to them. These words help us in our times of struggle, knowing that the God we serve cares for us and has provided us with the ultimate source of comfort, His Son Jesus Christ. “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. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ” (Chp. 1:3-5).