Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:3–24
Comedians and movies have lampooned the men and women who make up local news teams across the country as having nothing to offer beyond hairdos and good looks. While the jokes might ring true in some cases, viewers in Houston, Texas, saw the very human side of anchorwoman Sydney Seaward. In 1996 she learned that she had breast cancer. While receiving treatment for the disease, she continued working. And when the treatments caused her hair to fall out, Seaward became the first anchorwoman to remove her wig on camera—during a report about cancer survivors.
Asked why, she replied, “I have a message to communicate now, the message of courage, hope and God’s healing power.” Although Seaward lost her battle with cancer two years later, she had accomplished her mission, serving as a highly visible, public source of inspiration and comfort to countless others fighting the disease.
How do people in the midst of suffering muster the courage to give comfort to others? Even a couple of thousand years ago, the apostle Paul knew the answer: “Praise … 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 have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows” (verses 3–5). In other words, when we suffer and receive comfort, God uses those experiences to equip us to comfort and encourage others.
Sometimes comfort comes when God changes our circumstances and the suffering diminishes or ends. But more often, it seems, God puts the Sydney Seawards of the world into our lives. Maybe God sends a friend who offers comfort and encouragement from his Word. Or perhaps he sends someone who brings a meaningful gift. Or sometimes he places people right in the middle of our suffering who lift us up in prayer, envelop us in a warm hug, listen to our expressions of pain or simply sit in silence with us.
Through our suffering and the comfort God provides, we learn to comfort others when they suffer. In fact, in all these ways we can offer solace and encouragement to those around us who are hurting.
To Take Away
- We don’t always understand the way God works. Why do you think he allows people to suffer?
- While suffering might mean battling an illness or a disease, people suffer in other ways as well. What individuals can you name who are suffering physically, emotionally or spiritually right now?
- What past experiences can you call upon to comfort the suffering people you’ve identified? What actions can you take during the coming week to offer them encouragement and support?
Copyright © 2006 by Zondervan.