Paradoxical Kingdom – Suffering and Comfort
Many Christians have heard the reference of God’s kingdom being an “Upside Down Kingdom.” Things the Lord does can seem backwards or contradictory to how it should work in our minds. We can’t fathom how suffering is good for us or why God calls us to be humble when it hurts.
Let’s flip your perspective and look at these paradoxes of Christ over the next few weeks: Suffering and comfort, humility and exaltation, rejection and community, grief and joy, discipline and love.
Suffering seems callous of God. Why would He let you go through such pain? How is He an all-perfect, all-loving, all-good God if He allows such hardship in your life?
One way I always find peace in this is that the Lord won’t let you go through anything He hasn’t endured Himself. Man made the choice to sin. The Lord then made the choice to suffer the weight of your sin to bring you back into freedom with Him.
Sin also affects everything in nature and the world around us as well. It’s been tainted by man’s choice which is why we have natural disasters, animal attacks, illness, and so on.
The Lord doesn’t waste a moment though. He works within the state of the world for His own glory. So, He uses the brokenness of this world to draw you closer to Him. It is in the suffering that He refines you to be more like Him. You experience a taste of what He endured. Though that could repel you from Him, if your eyes are fixed on Him, you’ll step into the throne room of God and understand a bit of His suffering, which will help you to endure your own.
This is a mysterious concept and one you most likely do not want to dwell on. Let’s take a look at the Bible to see if His words can shed light on what He’s trying to do through this idea.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. 4 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 just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will also share in the comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Verse five confirms that Jesus Christ endured great suffering, and therefore, as His child, you must as well. But – you also receive an equal measure of His comfort as well. He never leaves you in the valley of weighty hardships alone. He gets down there with you and comforts you in your time of need.
Verse four assures you that He will comfort you in all affliction. He doesn’t pick and choose when to be active in it. He’s going to comfort you in all hardship. Some might seem like He wasn’t there. It might not be until you’ve either overcome it or learned to endure it that you’ll see where He was. Don’t be afraid to ask Him and look back to see. He’ll show you in due time.
What is the earthly value of your suffering?
Verse six explains this well. “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer.”
As I have shared in the last month’s series, your story can inspire and impact someone else’s life in a profound way. As I think about this ministry, I am so blessed and grateful to have had some of you reach out and share how my story has comforted or inspired you in yours, through your suffering of infertility, health struggles, faith questions, or financial challenges. It is through the comfort I received from Christ that I am able to come alongside you.
King Solomon said that, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 There is comfort in that idea, in the fact that someone else has gone through what you have. Every circumstance has been lived and yet is uniquely specific to you as well. No one can completely understand every emotion and thought you’re feeling around your situation. That’s specifically yours. But, as Paul shared in our text today, it is by the comfort they received that they can comfort you in, “Any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
As Paul shared in verse six, your comfort can help others towards their own comfort and salvation! Have you heard stories of someone getting saved out of drugs, and then his story helped lead someone else to Christ and out of drugs themselves? This makes me think of the powerful ministry that takes place in prisons. Oftentimes, it is through the work of Christ within prisons, that people come to a saving relationship with Jesus, and then end up being released from prison. They then find ways to minister and share the gospel to current prisoners. This cycle takes place in many forms in all of our lives.
All of this refines us to grow in, “Patient endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer.” Paul was imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, and persecuted many times. He very much understood what suffering for Jesus looked like. Yet, he learned in the suffering and comfort that his story led to “patient endurance” in other Christians who were going through the same thing. His willingness to endure helped others endure also.
By suffering for Christ, your story will produce hope in others to keep going too. Jesus warned you that you will have suffering in this world, especially because of Him. As you take up your cross and follow Him today, be courageous and trust in the comfort you will receive from Jesus as well. He has conquered this world. One day your suffering will end and only comfort will remain.
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33