Maybe the Lord is allowing you to go through some difficult circumstances today to prepare you for something He wants you to do tomorrow. I realize that thought might not comfort you very much in your present distress. You may be thinking, “No, this suffering doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s meaningless. There’s no point to it.”
Joseph might have thought that same thing at several points in his life journey. It’s certain that Job did! But the truth is, God might very well be preparing you to touch someone else’s life in a way no one else could.
If someone just found out they have cancer and you are a cancer survivor, you have no idea how much encouragement and perspective you can bring to such a person, who might feel as though he or she has been handed a death sentence.
You have no idea how much comfort that can bring. And it would be something that only you could say. No one else could say those words with the same kind of credibility.
We once had a man named Brian Birdwell give his testimony at our church. Brian was in the Pentagon back on September 11, 2001, when those planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Many of Brian’s friends were killed that day. He survived, though he was burned over much of his body and had to go through multiple excruciating skin-graft operations.
Afterward I had lunch with Brian, and we had a lot of fun together. He is very witty and a great pleasure to be with. In my opinion, he is also a genuine American hero.
Before we finished our meal, I asked him if he wanted to do something with me that afternoon. He thanked me, but then said, “Greg, I’d love to, but I can’t. I have to go to a hospital.”
“What’s going on?” I asked him.
“Well,” he said, “whenever I go speak in some location, I always find out where the local burn ward is, and I go and visit the patients.”
I remember thinking how wonderful that was. Who could have a more effective ministry to burn victims than someone who had been through the agony of skin grafts and burn treatments as Brian had?
Imagine being an individual burned over most of your body, and thinking, “My life is over.” But then a survivor comes along and says, “Look. I know how hard it is. I have been there. But I got through it! And here is what God has been doing in and through my life since I got out of the hospital. He can do the same for you!”
Paul, who had his own serious issues with suffering, wrote: “He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3–5 NLT).
God will give you that comfort—over and beyond what you can personally contain—so that you can share it with others.