by Julie Coleman @JulieZColeman
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NASB
Ironic to the beauty that was characteristic of the Hawaiian Islands, the leper colony Molokai was home to some of the most deplorable and wretched conditions on the earth. Missionary Father Damien arrived on the scene in 1873 to spread a message of hope and to minister to those who had been sent to the island to die.
He erected a church and worked tirelessly to provide decent shelters and improve the quality of life for the lepers who lived on the peninsula. Those suffering with leprosy politely attended the church services, out of respect for this man who selflessly gave of his life. But in their minds, religion remained something for those who did not suffer from the disease. Damien began every sermon the same way: “My dear lepers . . .”
Years passed. One morning as Damien prepared breakfast, he accidentally spilled boiling water on his foot. There was no pain. Damien realized that the dreaded had happened. He had finally contracted the disease. That Sunday morning, he began his sermon differently: “My fellow lepers . . .”
The news that Damien was now one of them spread like wildfire throughout the leper community. As the curious lepers watched, Damien continued to live out the rest of his life in dedication to the God he trusted. Religious revival swept the colony. God had suddenly become very real to the lepers while displayed in the life of one who suffered as they did.
God can turn our pain into an avenue of His grace and mercy. Knowing they are not alone is a balm to those who suffer.
When painful circumstances strike, our first prayer is for the Lord to take them away. Much of our prayer times sound like a Christmas wish list, as we tell God what to “fix” in order for life to be more comfortable for us. While there is nothing wrong with bringing our concerns before the Lord, we should also be praying about our own response should the Lord choose to allow that circumstance to remain. We need to pray for endurance and grace. Our goal should be that God might be glorified through us and that we would remain faithful to Him through the trial.
“…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.” (2 Corinthians 1:4 NIV). One of the reasons God brings painful circumstances along is so we can effectively minister to others. After walking in someone else’s shoes, we can listen and respond with an empathy we could not have had without going through the experience ourselves. Having been there gives credibility to our spiritual counsel.
Knowing this should revolutionize our prayer lives. In the midst of the pain, we should be looking for ways God makes Himself real to us through the struggle. We must ask God to make us sensitive to what He is endeavoring to teach us. Because one day we will be given an opportunity to pass on what we learned in the experience to another who is in the midst of the battle. And they will need what we can give them.
Are you struggling right now? Julie shares what God is revealing to her in her current battle with breast cancer on her blog. Check it out!
About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.
Join the conversation: What has God revealed to you in a struggle that you have been able to use to encourage others?