When I surrendered my vocation to God back when I was seventeen-years-old, He called me to a life of walking through the most broken realities that people face in a first-world country. The verse that led me to this life was 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. ”
I began counseling others at the ripe age of 23. I looked like I could have still been in high school, and the patients given to me rightly had their doubts. I had my doubts, too. I knew that I didn’t have the wisdom to counseling people double my age. I didn’t have a lot of experience of deep wounds either so I couldn’t talk to them from my own experiences of deep brokenness. I was only helpful to them because I relied totally on the word of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit in me.
As the decades passed and I experienced life, marriage, motherhood, managing bills, hurt in relationships, etc.. I applied the comfort from God’s word to my own life; and my ability to interact with people’s pain increased. The relatively minor personal struggles I faced helped me enter into the brokenness of anorexia, depression, anxiety, marital difficulties in a more authentic way. My increasing troubles helped me transfer the truths of God’s word on a deeper level. The troubles in this life are unavoidable. No one escapes the sorrow of living in a fallen world.
I did not personally face catastrophic grief until my fifties. Ironically, I discovered that I received comfort from the comfort I found to comfort others from God’s Word. Before I ever personally faced the devastating troubles of this life, I received God’s comfort. It was slightly opposite of the way Paul describes the comfort of God coming to us after our troubles. I received comfort from the people who had trusted me enough to share their vulnerable catastrophic events with me. The comfort I had given them from God’s Word is what comforted me in my struggles. I discovered first hand that the comfort I had given from God’s Word followed the right path because it led me through my personal grief and struggle. I followed my own advice. I’m so grateful for the widows I advised to give themselves time to grieve and take medication that takes the edge off so you can do the hard work of grief. I was grateful for every parent with children who walked away from the life they hoped. I encouraged them from God’s Word in Philippians 1:6 that God had not finished His work, yet. I told them maybe someday you will be saying this to me. I never felt immune from anything that anyone I counseled happened to them happening to me. We don’t get to decide which cross God will send to us to bear. We do get to decide if we will bear it through His wisdom, love and peace or not.
The life of a Christian is a troubled life. If Christian’s don’t look troubled by their troubled lives, that is the difference that being comforted by God makes. We each have our own troubles to bear. Some are consequences of our direct rebellion against God. Some are the consequences of the sins of other people against God. Some are the natural outflow of living in a fallen world.
Troubles are to be expected. Comfort is to be accepted or rejected. How we respond to God’s comfort to our troubles makes all the difference in our Christian life.