We all endure pain and difficulties in life. Many times God is able to use these situations to birth or grow in us some fruit that is missing or rotting on the vine. Sometimes, however, these struggles are not specifically for us.
2 Corinthians 1:4 says that God, “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (ESV, emphasis mine). Recently I unearthed a gold nugget in the book of Acts.
We read in each of the Gospels how Peter denied the Lord three times. In John 21:15, Jesus queries Peter three times, “do you love me?” Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to “take back” the denials. This was Peter’s restoration.
Acts 3:11 and following finds Peter and John in Solomon’s portico. A lame beggar had just been healed; and God opened a door for Peter to address the people. In verses 13 & 14 Peter twice tells the people that they had denied Jesus.
Now, I have always read that section through prophetic lenses. I saw Peter as a firebrand calling these wicked sinners to repentance. This time I read through eyes of mercy.
I can picture Peter on the verge of tears as he remembers his own denials of Christ, pleading with them to take another look at this Jesus that they have denied. In verse 17 Peter acknowledges their ignorance and further implores them to recognize Jesus as Messiah, “that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (v 20 ESV). That verse brings us full circle to 2 Corinthians 1:4.
I find myself thinking twice about difficulties in life. I still have not developed an affection for affliction, a love for loss, or a passion for pain; but I do look a little closer for the lessons to be learned from them. I don’t blame God for the troubles; but I look for His hand while I am passing through them. I’m finding in myself a deeper compassion for those who suffer without Christ. God can and will use my pain. That’s what I think.