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.
My wife and I had the privilege of meeting Joni Erickson Tada, the Christian author who was paralyzed from the neck down as a young lady. In the early years after her diving accident, she wrote about coming to terms with the fact that God's plan for her life was to remain paralyzed.
In one of her books, A Step Further, she wrote:
On a rainy afternoon in the early summer of 1972, about fifteen people gathered in a tiny oak church not far from my home. The group consisted of close friends, family, and church leaders whom I had called together to pray for my healing. By the time our brief service was over, the rain had stopped. Exiting through the front doors of the church, we were greeted by a beautiful rainbow in the misty distance. It gave me just one more reassurance that God had heard our prayers. God had indeed heard . . . but He did not heal.
Those who have heard Joni speak have been struck by the peace of Christ that emanates from her face and through her testimony. She is an example to us all of the fact that we can trust God even when times are hard. She has devoted the remainder of her life to reminding believers that, even when God chooses to give sickness instead of health, His plan is always perfect. Even when it doesn't feel good, His will is always perfect.
During my college years I had a friend who went on a hike one night with a group of adventurous young people. Unable to see clearly what lay ahead, he literally walked off the edge of a steep cliff. Though he survived the fall, he was paralyzed from the waist down.
Today Scott Mitchell is the founding pastor of a thriving church in Atlanta, Georgia, believing that, if it hadn't been for that fall, he would not be the man he is today. He now spends his life and ministry sharing with suffering believers the comfort he experienced from God during that trial.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians that this is the very reason for some of our afflictions—that we may be able to comfort others who are afflicted. Therefore the question we should ask during times of suffering is not, "Lord, will You please get me out of this?" but, "Lord, will You show me who I can help through this?"
Everyone in the world is suffering in some way, but not everyone has experienced the comfort that God offers in the midst of it. Follow the examples of Paul, Joni Erickson Tada, and my friend, Scott, who made the decision to use their afflictions for good . . . to comfort others.
Prayer Point: Consider an area of trial in your own life, whether it is physical illness, emotional pain, family strife, etc., and thank the Lord for allowing you to go through it. Then pray that God will bring someone across your path who is going through a similar trial and needs comforting.