It’s a risky business writing about comfort and suffering, because the former is not something I can give, and the latter is not something I pretend to understand. But over the past few weeks these are some of the questions I’ve been asking as a result of things I’ve seen and heard. I’d appreciate thoughts on helpful things you’ve found.
What comfort is there for the Christian when we face difficulty? What is our hope? What is our confidence?
Is it the knowledge that things will get better? For certain, or just maybe?
Is it the knowledge that God can work good through the struggles we endure?
Is it the knowledge that God can teach us stuff that we would otherwise never have learned? Shaping our character or making us ‘better people’?
Or is it a deeper hope? One that stretches further than our eyes can see at the moment, to the point in time when all that is wrong with the world will be swept away, and things will be put to rights… and that in that day we will be found hidden, wrapped up, in the side of our Saviour? There will be an end of our suffering and struggles.
But is that all? Maybe there’s more comfort to be found? After all, he’s not distant and far from us now… for God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. What difference does that make? Knowing we are loved, that while we were still sinners God demonstrated his love for us in Jesus’ death.
Why have I never read Romans 5 in the light of suffering before?! It’s not just full of doctrinal nuggets or thought-provoking sound-bites… there is comfort for the doubting, weak and weary.
The preceding chapter, Paul is chatting about faith – reiterating the utmost centrality of just trusting Jesus – that’s what made Abraham so strong, that (v20) ‘No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God.’ So Paul goes on (I paraphrase…) Just trust Jesus- all this follows. None of the statements in this passage are imperatives – they are the outworking of knowing Jesus.
Surely that has to be our comfort in hard times? Knowing Jesus, and in him knowing that God is for us, to the very end of the world. He is for us and will not give up on us or let us go – look at the lengths he has gone to to win you!