How well do you suffer? I am God’s adopted child, but I’m not good at it. I’m sure you also need to grow in this area.
As God’s adopted children, we suffer for a variety of reasons. First, because of Adam’s sin, we face suffering in a fallen world. God’s providential poundings are meant to drive us to repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 2:1–5; 8:18–39). Second, we often suffer as the result of our sinful thoughts, desires, words, and actions (1 Peter 4:12–19). Sin always has results. Yet, God’s mercy and grace call us back to the Good Shepherd (2:18–25; 1 John 1:5–2:2). Last, we also suffer as a target of the world and the devil because we are united to Christ.
When we suffer, whatever the cause, we hurt. Like a punch to the stomach, suffering seems to cause all the wind of the Holy Spirit to gush out. We struggle to catch our breath. What do we need? We need the God of all comfort to hold and comfort us as the Spirit rejuvenates us. God’s comfort soothes sorrow and distress. It also strengthens us and leads us to repentance if needed.
The Old Testament lays a foundation for our comfort. While Solomon says the oppressed have no defender and the wicked seem to have the power, this vanity is not the final word. For the Shepherd cares for God’s children (Pss. 23; 50; 52; 65; 70; 82; 119). God’s Word comforts. The prophets say God will comfort His people after their discipline in the exile (Isa. 12:1; 22:4; 51:3, 19; Zech 1:17). The good news is that God comforts His own (Isa. 40:1–5). Jesus fulfills these promises (61:1–4), as He declared in His sermon in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16–21). God’s comfort is complete in Jesus the Good Shepherd (John 10:1–21).
This comfort is crystal clear in the New Testament. You will find comfort throughout the New Testament, but for now focus on Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1. God’s comfort is a major theme in the whole epistle. Paul suffered more than you and I combined, yet God comforted him (2 Cor. 4:7–12; 6:3–10; 11:16-–12:10). Read 2 Corinthians 1:3–11. Paul blesses God; he focuses on two of His characteristics. First, God is the Father of mercies. Our heavenly Father is tender-hearted, not hard-hearted. He showers us with mercies even in the midst of the suffering and pain. This is better than His wonderful self-description to Moses on Sinai (Ex. 34). He gives bread, fish, and eggs—yes, even the Spirit—not stones, snakes, and scorpions (Matt. 7:7–11; Luke 11:9–11).