When Siu Fen discovered she had kidney failure and would need dialysis for the rest of her life, she wanted to give up. Retired and single, the longtime believer in Jesus saw no point in prolonging her life. But friends convinced her to persevere and go for dialysis and trust in God to help her.
Two years later, she found her experience coming into play when she visited a friend from church with a debilitating disease. The woman felt alone, as few could truly understand what she was going through. But Siu Fen was able to identify with her physical and emotional pain and could connect with her in a personal way. Her own journey enabled her to walk alongside the woman, giving her a special measure of comfort others couldn’t. “Now I see how God can still use me,” she said.
It can be hard to understand why we suffer. Yet God can use our affliction in unexpected ways. As we turn to Him for comfort and love in the midst of trials, it also empowers us to help others. No wonder Paul learned to see purpose in his own suffering: It gave him the opportunity to receive God’s comfort, which he could then use to bless others (2 Corinthians 1:3–5). We’re not asked to deny our pain and suffering, but we can take heart in God’s ability to use it for good.
How has God used you to bring comfort to another? How has your faith helped you to persevere?
Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians begins in a way that is full of empathy for people like us. He refers nine times to the comfort we all need so that we can comfort and encourage one another (1:3–7). Paul goes on to describe a comfort of Christ that is given to those who suffer with Christ (1:5, 8–9). The rest of Paul’s letter shows that these words of comfort include those who join Christ in self-sacrifice without excluding those who hurt for lesser reasons. The apostle shows, as Jesus so often did, that in all our needs, anxieties, and wrongs, there’s a way to find the reassurance of a God who groans with us and for us—even before pain and trouble open our heart to Him ( Romans 8:18–39).