"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."
“God pulled through,” I said.
“Really, God pulled through?” My friend John said, sarcastically. As if to further say, “Duh, of course God pulled through. Doesn’t He always?”
God doesn’t always ‘pull through’ in the way that we expect or hope for. To miss this fact is to miss the heart of a person in the midst of significant struggle. God did not save my marriage or heal my friend Erik of cancer. My brothers and sisters in North Korea are still martyred daily.
Well meaning Christ loving brothers and sisters often recount the story of Job with those going through a season of trial. They remind us that God restored Job, giving him seven sons and three daughters. They quote Isaiah 61 to the hurting brother, saying that God will bring ‘beauty from ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning.’ Yet we mustn't fail to recognize that Job initially lost his first children in a tornado. Acknowledging beauty from ashes means that something burned in the first place.
If we are to encourage people in their sufferings, we must be willing to meet with them on a heart level. This necessitates identifying the reality of the trial. God may not heal the marriage or allow the prisoner escape from his fetters. Remember that Jacob wrestled with God and was blessed, yet suffered a dislocated hip (to this day, the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh-Gen. 32:32).
Paul tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.” The day of rejoicing will come. Until then, let us not discount the fires that were walked through along the way.