Summary: We don't have to look far to see that suffering exists. Truth is, that tragedy enters into each of our lives. When it does we tend to ask: "Why did this happen to me?" But we should really be asking a different question.
What Good Can Come of This? - 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
Care Home and Hospital Service – February 2012
Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
Those words were written nearly 2000 years ago by a man named Paul. Paul was what we call an apostle and he was a man that God used to do great things during the years following Jesus’ death and resurrection. He was a man whom God worked through in a mighty way. But Paul was also a man who understood what it meant to suffer and to be in need. And we could hear that in his words. He talked a lot about suffering, and a lot about being comforted, during those times of suffering.
And he writes as one who knows those things firsthand. We just catch glimpse into his life as we read God’s word but we know that Paul knew hard times. At times he suffered from hunger and thirst, at others from the beatings and stonings and floggings he had received. At least once he had been battered and bruised and left for dead outside the city walls. He faced angry crowds and survived shipwrecks. He was imprisoned and chained. He had been abandoned by friends and despaired even of life at times. Paul is a man who understood what suffering means. But he’s also a man who never lost his hope in God despite all the things he endured.
Today we don’t have to look far to see that suffering still exists. There are earthquakes and floods, avalanches and accidents, wars and famines, homelessness and unemployment. There are sicknesses and diseases, shattered dreams and hopelessness. People are hurting. People are suffering. People are grieving. And maybe today you are one of them. One of those who is hurting, or grieving or despairing; suffering in some way. If that is you today, I want you to know that you are not alone. Suffering comes in different forms, to different people, but it comes to everyone of us at one time or another – often when it’s least expected.
Your pain, your trial, your suffering, is different than mine, just as mine is different from yours. And I can only speak to you from my own experience with trials. And if I were to share one with you it would be one that came upon me unexpectedly many years ago. It was a time in my life when I faced an uncertain future and when the doctors had no answers for me.
It had started with numbness, and then tremors and weakness, in my hands and feet and legs. Over a period of months it went from merely irritating to debilitating and was affecting my ability to do my job and to take care of my family. It got to the point that on some days I couldn’t hold my hand steady enough to even write my name. Then other parts of my body began to be effected. I had always had great eyesight but during this same time period I began to have troubles with my vision – so much so that I struggled to read anything smaller than those big neon “Exit” signs you see over doorways. One night I woke up out of a sound sleep to discover that I could not see anything out of one of my eyes.
After about half an hour the eyesight gradually returned but it had been a disturbing experience. I remember thinking to myself, “What on earth is happening to me? How bad is this thing going to get? Is it ever going to get better? Is this my life now?”
And I think those are pretty common questions that we ask when trials come our way. When something unpleasant comes into our lives the question on our minds is, “Why me? Why did this have to happen to me? Why did this have to happen to my family? Why did this have to happen now?” I think of a friend of mine who lost his sister and her husband in a car accident a few years ago. It was a single vehicle accident on a lonely road. Somehow they lost control of the car, went off a bridge and ended up upside down in the creek. For months the question that the family asked over and over was, “Why? Why did this have to happen? Why did it have to happen to them?” We long for an answer to that question, don’t we? And I imagine you have probably asked it yourself at some point in your life, maybe it’s a question you’re even asking yourself now, “Why me God? Why has this suffering, or this trial, or this sickness, or this disease, - why has it come into my life?”
We long for answer to that question but the truth is that even if we did get it, it wouldn’t satisfy the hurt we feel. It wouldn’t take away the pain. It wouldn’t change our circumstances. Makes me think of a man named Job whose story we find in the pages of the Bible. I call it a story but it’s not a story in the sense of a fairy tale. It’s more than that. It’s the testimony of events that actually happened to a man who actually lived and walked the earth as we do. And his story is troubling because his life is filled with great joy but also with great sorrow – much as our lives are apt to be.