As I look back and reflect on my early thirties it’s quite a blur of deep emotion. In the course of a year, I had a friend who died from cancer, my Dad went through prostate cancer, my daughter had a scary medical ordeal and one of her friends (at the age of 4) was diagnosed with a terminal tumor in her brain stem. It was a heavy and difficult time. They say God counts each tear that falls. He was really busy with me during that time. My friends and I would sit, pray and chat about all we were enduring and wonder what in the world God was doing. He never left our sides and gave me strength and courage in situations I would have never imagined overcoming.
He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows. 2 Corinthians 1:4-5
However, as it’s expressed in Philippians 1:12, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advance of the gospel.” really sums it up. Paul was beaten by the crowds, but able to share his testimony with them (Acts 21-26). He was moved from noble leaders to kings and then from prison to dangerous sea transfers while all along having the opportunity to bend the ear of many audiences including: King Agrippa, Festus, Caesar, Ananias, Felix and even jailors, prison mates and sailors. Paul saw his trials as a blessing and took advantage of these audiences to share his great testimony and advance the gospel.
Fast forward over 10 years and I can see that the affliction my friends and I endured offered God the opportunity to provide comfort, strength and courage for us all in miraculous ways. In my ministry and life, I can understand and sympathize with others in ways I would have never been able to without enduring my own trials. The comfort I received from Christ I can now offer to others as it overflowed from Heaven onto me, I can pour it onto those who cross my path and need compassion and comfort.
We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; 9 we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
A lot was lost during that year and much gained. I was pressed in on every side and clung to God for preservation. I felt slapped to the ground time after time with devastating news and just when I began to regain my strength was knocked down again, but God never forgot me. With His strength and courage I will never let the suffering I endured or the sadness that can still overcome me go to waste. I will use it for His glory and for those He places in my path that need comfort, support and courage. We all still suffer in this world, but surely Paul sets a great example for us all because he never faltered in his desire to share the good news and love of Christ in the midst of all he endured.