Suffering in and of itself does not lead a person into a deeper relationship with God. As with those who hear the word of God yet do not respond to it with faith, suffering divorced from faith and hope will actually embitter us as our hearts grow harder rather than softer toward God. In other words, suffering will either make us run to God or away from Him. In the midst of trials, we must ask ourselves, “Is this trial making me bitter and callous, or is it making me loving and gentle?”
In the midst of the book of 2 Kings, among the stories of monarchs and prophets, we find an extraordinary picture of gentleness and humility in the face of great heartache through the example of a little Israelite girl. The Syrians had captured this young girl during a raid; they had carried her away from her family and from Israel and had forced her to work in the service of Naaman, a commander in the Syrian army. What an unfathomable tragedy for a young child and her family!
Yet in the midst of her great suffering, we catch a glimpse of her tender heart: upon learning that her master suffered from leprosy, this child told Naaman’s wife how he could be healed. If she had allowed herself to become embittered, then, when the word went around the house that her master was sick, she might have concluded, Well, it’s nothing more than what he deserves. But she didn’t. She wanted the best for her enemy, rather than hoping for the worst. This is remarkable. How could she do this? Because presumably, in the face of her emptiness and the sadness of being separated from her family, she had turned time and time again to her loving God and His promises.
As we journey through our own suffering, and as we seek to minister to those who are in deep affliction, we must not forget to cultivate a tender and open heart. Will it be easy? By no means! But God’s faithfulness is so vast, so comprehensive, that it is able to sustain us, even in our deepest pain. So turn to God in every circumstance and take comfort in His faithfulness and provision. When you do, then you “may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
How is God calling me to think differently?
How is God reordering my heart’s affections — what I love?
What is God calling me to do as I go about my day today?
6So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
The Ministry of Reconciliation
11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
16From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.2 The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling3 the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
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