“Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:7
I was reminded of our overarching redemptive story and an earlier event about Moses in Exodus 14:13. Moses is leading the people, and he is up against the proverbial wall. The Israelites are being afflicted. Moses was confident in the face of suffering. In this affliction, he knew he would not experience a crushing blow. Moses proclaims to them:
“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today.” Exodus 14:13
They were hemmed in by the Red Sea with the Egyptians bearing down on them. And Moses is optimistic. Is Moses naïve? The Israelites are not buying his optimism. In fact, right before Moses tells them to stand firm and predicts that they will see God’s salvation, the people brazenly ask him a searing question.
“Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Exodus 14:11
It’s actually humorous and helps you have a little sympathy for any pastor or leader you’ve ever met. Followers tend to whine and complain. Godly leaders lead. Decisions are made that affect followers. But followers tend to embrace sight, and their scope of visibility is only what is right in front of them. Leaders seek to stand by faith and perceive an eternal perspective.
I’m learning to stand by faith. I have used the word “recipient” to describe my experience through loss. I am receiving support. I think of the word “observer,” too. I’m standing firm and watching God orchestrate circumstances and chance meetings. If you are facing loss, then be faithful to observe with a watchful eye, receive the ministry of God and his people, and stand firm as he weaves this journey together before you.
By faith, we need to remember that we are not alone. Our God suffered for us. He proved that he can be trusted for our eternal safekeeping.
“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8
Our God is a suffering God. Matthew 26:38 states, “Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’” He suffered, and apparently—from the rest of this story—he suffered without his disciples’ support since they did not watch or remain with him.
“Did e’er such love and sorrow meet…” Isaac Watts, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”
Jesus learned obedience through suffering. If I stand faithful in suffering, what will I learn? Maybe I’ll learn more obedience. Maybe my suffering produced by loss will give way to maturity. As Mark Vroegop writes, “The sorrow of a loss can lead us to the man of sorrows because Jesus is the answer to the cause of every pain.” Maybe I’ll grow in Christlikeness. Most assuredly, I am not immune from suffering. But I do have a choice about what I believe about suffering.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
Jesus suffered on our account. If I am determined to walk with him and be like him, I must seek to learn from my suffering, decide not to waste my pain, and comfort others. Our God is a suffering God and a God of sorrows, and he sent us a Comforter. Charles H. Spurgeon has said, “God’s people have always in their worst condition found out the best of their God.” I agree.
Ours is a God of sorrows who shares abundant comfort.
“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too…” 2 Corinthians 1:5
“He took my sins and my sorrows, he made them his very own.” Charles H. Gabriel, “I Stand Amazed in the Presence”