Sometimes, in the pain and suffering of this life, we wonder where God is in the midst of our trials. We can’t feel his presence and we don’t hear his voice. Many times, in the midst of these valleys, our prayers seem futile, our spiritual well seems dry. Where does our help come from?
This is the question the Psalmist asks in Psalm 121. The answer given is simple: “My help comes from the Lord.” But, where can we find this help, where can we find the Lord when it seems he is absent and we feel alone?
Paul answers this question for us in 2 Corinthians 1. God comforts us through his church. When we don’t seem to feel his presence in our life, we should turn to his church. Here in 2 Corinthians 1, Paul reveals at least three ways God comforts us through the ministry of the body of Christ.
The experience of others
In verses 3–7, we see one of the ways God comforts us in our suffering is through the presence of our brothers and sisters in Christ. God comforts his people in their affliction through the comforting presence of those who have already walked through affliction.
We need the church. We need to be in close relationship with others who are walking by faith in Jesus.
I don’t know all of the reasons why we experience pain and suffering, but I do know God wants us to use our experience to comfort others who are walking their own path through the valley of the shadow of death. When we walk through affliction, we should turn to others who have walked similar paths.
In the middle of your trial, when you wonder where God is, look to his church. He is in their hugs and pats on the back. He is in their volunteering to drive you to the doctor and sit with you in waiting rooms. He is there in their silent presence.
He is in their own experiences of pain and suffering, of loss and grief. God uses his people to be his hands and feet, to represent his love and grace.
The hope of the gospel
Another way we experience comfort in our affliction is by continuing to preach to ourselves and remind one another of the hope of the gospel. God will deliver us, Paul promises, and we can bank on this sure hope because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
In verse 20, Paul says all of the promises of God find their yes in Jesus. Jesus is God’s ultimate yes to our deepest questions about his goodness, presence and power.
Is God there in the midst of our suffering? Jesus is God’s yes.
Is God good? Jesus is God’s yes.
Is God working even in the midst of this pain? Jesus is God’s yes.
Will God deliver me from this affliction? Jesus is God’s yes.
When we doubt God and his goodness, we must look to Jesus. The hope of the resurrection of Jesus and our own resurrection in him gives us a foundation of hope to stand on in the storms of affliction.
The power of prayer
In verse 11, Paul asks the Corinthian church to pray for him and his ministry. God works when his people pray. God brings comfort to those walking through affliction when his people pray.
We often tell other people we are praying for them in order to sound spiritual or because we don’t know what else to say, but prayer is not a throwaway activity. It is the most important thing we can do because it fuels our comforting presence and calls us back to the foundation of hope in Jesus.
God comforts us through the prayers of others. This requires us to be honest and to trust others with our affliction while trusting God to work through those prayers.
When we walk through affliction and suffering and we wonder where God is, we must turn to his church. Through the presence of others who have already walked through an affliction similar to ours, the hope we have in Jesus of all things being redeemed and restored and the powerful prayers of those all around us. God comforts us.
Instead of looking to the sky for a sure sign of God’s presence, we should turn to those all around us already who are prepared to be his hands and his feet.
God comforts us through his people.
Zac Harrel is pastor of First Baptist Church in Gustine, Texas.