Chances are good that you know someone who is in trouble. Battered by circumstances or weighed down by discouragement, this person you know may feel as if he or she is at wit’s end and may even be asking the question, “Why is God letting this happen to me?” And it may occur to you that the hand of God has placed you in the life of this individual to encourage or help.
One thing you certainly DON’T want to do is to offer trite or glib remarks that patronize the pain or suffering of the other. For example, one might say to the other that the Lord never gives us more hardship than we can bear. While well intended, it doesn’t enter into the pain of the other nor does it acknowledge the fact of his or her desperation. In fact, it isn’t even correct biblically.
What the Lord doesn’t let us have more of than we can handle is temptation. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV).
Simply this. That the God Who created the heavens and the earth, the stars, the trees, the mountains, the seas, the flowers, the family, and even each hair on each head will ultimately bring about His deliverance in the life of the one who will trust and obey Him. To a heart that perseveres because of hope in God, the Lord ultimately brings about a great victory!
“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 ESV).
So what can we say about hardship and suffering that isn’t the result of sin or selfishness on our part, but seem instead to be allowed by God for either no reason or reasons known only to God? First, we recall to mind that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV).
Second, we remember that while our Lord will permit us to exhaust all our resources, expend all our strength, and even forfeit all our hopes and dreams, He is merely clearing the way in our hearts for His deliverance, His strength, and eternal rewards that infinitely dwarf our meager hopes and shallow dreams. Indeed, “He delivered us from… deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will deliver us again” (2 Corinthians 1:10 ESV).
So if this God can deliver us from the deadly peril of our sin through the atoning sacrifice of His Son, can we not count on Him to “hold onto us” through the trials and tribulations that He permits in our lives? “He Who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 ESV).
No, I’m not suggesting that you “wax on and on” theologically when keeping company with the hurting, but knowing what God says in His Word does empower you to simply say to the hurting one, as your tears mingle with theirs, “Hold on to Jesus. Trust God through this. He understands and weeps with you, too.”
But do not be an encourager in word only. As a channel of God’s comfort and encouragement, be an encourager in deed, too. Be creative and be ready to go beyond what is necessary to be the friend this other may need. Cards, help with errands or chores, or thoughtful gestures that remind this friend or acquaintance that they’re not alone may be all it takes for him or her to continue to cling to the hope that only Jesus can provide.
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:15-17 ESV). So, stay on the lookout and let God make you a source of true encouragement today.
Someone being told that God doesn’t permit circumstances in her life that she cannot handle may result in the unhappy effect of bitterness or despair, especially when she is overwhelmed with a hurt or loss that just doesn’t go away. So what perspective can you share with another who is suffering? What is the truth of the matter that brings hope and strength in such times of utter brokenness?
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 22 ½ years. He is the author of “The Fairy Tale Parables,” “Crimson Harvest,” and “A Heart at Home with God.” He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).