Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
2015 was not a good year for us. I was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer for the first nine months of the year. I have had a great outcome, and we praise God for healing and provision during that year. But I do not care to repeat it.
I learned a lot last year about walking with God through adversity. While I lost my mother to breast cancer in 2012, and I learned about losing a parent, truthfully, it was nothing compared to walking that road myself. I don’t want to waste any of those lessons. I want to allow God to use me to bring encouragement and comfort to others who are walking through difficult seasons.
Paul says that God “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” It’s a simple concept – we endure difficulties, are comforted by God, and then we extend that same comfort to someone else. We freely pass along what we have already received.
How can we do that? Here are some ideas:
BE WATCHFUL FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO MINISTER.
Out-of-town friends mailed me goodies during chemo – fun things like books, scarves, lotion, hot tea, gift cards for Starbucks – things that would brighten my day. One in-town friend brought me doughnuts and green apples – two of the foods that actually tasted good during chemo. People took my young son to do extra-fun things. Along with practical help like cooking and cleaning, these simple gestures are the things I remember. Since then, I have tried to find ways to “pay it forward”.
BE PRAYERFUL, PAYING ATTENTION TO THE PROMPTING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Needs are all around us. If you and your husband are in ministry, your days, nights, and weekends are filled with people with needs. We simply cannot meet every need that presents itself, and I don’t think we are meant to. But if the Holy Spirit is urging you to reach out to someone, do it. Many times when someone has come to mind, I have sent them a quick text message, and it has been just the moment they needed an encouraging word. I believe that God brings people to mind when they need us. Don’t back away because you think you have nothing to offer. Be ready to respond when God calls.
BE PREPARED TO SHARE THE HOPE OF CHRIST.
I have been asked to share my journey, usually without warning. I have scriptures that meant a lot to me during that year, and I keep them close at hand so that I can share them easily (smartphone Bible apps are great for this). Chemo, radiation, surgery, and some wonderful doctors and nurses were tools that God used in my healing, but it was God who brought the healing. Our hope is found in Him alone. Being prepared with scripture and an outline in my mind makes it easier to share with someone who needs encouragement.
I know it can be tempting to hide the hurts in our lives from the people with whom we minister and work. However, while we can’t always share everything about our life situations, a certain amount of vulnerability gives us credibility and can open doors for ministry that would have otherwise been closed.
Being prepared, being prayerful, and being watchful are three simple ways to not waste our suffering and the lessons that God teaches us during those times. How can you use your own difficulties to minister to those in your circle of influence?
Published April 7, 2016