By Nathan Washburn
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Greenbrier
Following Jesus is not comfortable. He’s called us to carry a cross, come after Him, and die (Luke 9:23-24) not kick back in a recliner and wait for heaven. He pulls us out of our comfort zones, whether it’s for evangelism, serving others, or just being a good neighbor. These things are often very uncomfortable. However, even though we are not to be comfortable, we are able to be comforted. Yes, we die to self (Galatians 2:20). Yes, we suffer with Christ (Philippians 3:10). Yes, we are considered as scum by the world (I Corinthians 4:13). And yet, even as we walk through these times, we have a good Father who comforts us along the way.
We can’t expect asylum from suffering. Suffering is not the anomaly of the Christian life. We typically think that those who walk with the Lord experience hardship, but in general they will lead lives that for the most part avoid any kind of suffering or tragedy. However, Scripture is clear that suffering for the cause of Christ is the norm and that any momentary escape from suffering is the anomaly. Jesus is clear — “They will persecute you” (John 15:20). Peter is clear — “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you” (1 Peter 4:12). And John is clear — “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you” (I John 3:13). Following Jesus means no asylum from suffering.
We can draw from God’s comfort when we do experience suffering. Although we will experience suffering, we will not be left without comfort along the way. This is tremendously encouraging. It’s one thing to expect to endure suffering, but it’s quite another (and better) thing to expect that along with it we will have comfort. Knowing that we have one who comforts us in all our afflictions will get us through many dark nights. Three things at least comfort us in affliction:
(1) The cross is temporary; the resurrection is forever. Jesus is not still on the cross. It’s over. Done. The suffering was for a moment — an unbelievably intense, excruciating moment — but still a moment. His resurrection, however, still stands today. He is still resurrected. He is still at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf for us even now. He is still alive.
(2) The Holy Spirit is with us. When Jesus prepared to leave the disciples and hand over the future ministry of the church to them, He mentioned that He would not leave them alone. Instead, He would send to them one who would teach them and remind them of the things He had told them. He called Him “the Helper” or “the Comforter” (John 14:26). This same Holy Spirit is also with us who are in Christ now.
(3) Our affliction is producing glory. Suffering is not the final product. It’s merely the machinery through which glory is produced. Glory is the product, and it only comes through suffering. And this momentary, light affliction is constantly producing glory that will exceed any comparison to the past suffering (II Corinthians 4:17).
We can channel the comfort we’ve received to others who are in need. It’s never fulfilling to keep things to yourself. We need someone with us in the hard times to shoulder the burden of bad news. We need someone with us in the good times to celebrate the joy of good news. So then, when we experience suffering and are then comforted by these realities, it further completes our own comfort when we channel that comfort to others in their affliction.