Finding comfort…in hardship. How can that be possible?
For one, we can find comfort in hardship because hardship equips us to bring comfort to others. All of us who have gone through hard times know how comforting it is when someone else comes up to us and says, “I understand how you feel, because I’ve been through the very same situation you are going through right now.” Christians, when a brother or sister in Christ comforts you in this way, what are they doing? God says that they are using the comfort which he himself has given them in order to comfort you (2 Cor. 1:4).
Until we have experienced pain, we really cannot sympathize with hurting people…not in the way we can after our own pain. One who has lost a child, a parent, a sibling, or a close friend can better understand people who are going through a similar situation. A person who is suffering with cancer can better understand when others deal with this dreadful disease.
When we go through tough times, we are enabled to identify with someone else who has a similar experience. Why do you think support groups are so popular? No one understands the agony of divorce like somebody who has been divorced. No one understands the pain and humiliation of having a family member in prison like someone else who has a family member in prison. When people get together who have common experiences, they can encourage and comfort each other.
The Bible says that God is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3). “Mercies”is sometimes translated “compassion.” Did you notice how Paul distinguishes between mercy/compassion and comfort in this verse? There’s a difference between the two. Compassion has more to do with understanding, while comfort has more to do with putting that understanding into action to help others. No wonder “comfort”in the Greek literally means “to come alongside.” That’s what people who comfort do. They come alongside. The comforter listens, encourages, and assists (James 2:15-16). They will work to make the situation better. They will take the initiative to make the visit, pick up the phone, prepare the meal, or tap the sufferer on the shoulder and say, “I understand what you’re going through; I’ve been there.” (2 Cor. 1:6-7)
So we can find comfort in hardship from others, the ones who have experienced the same or similar sufferings. So when we experience hardships, let us do our best to rejoice, knowing that now we are better equipped to be a more comforting blessing to more people.