Over the years, my spiritual mentor has continuously reminded me of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, which says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (NASB)
The last few years have been very difficult for me, and so this verse has helped me and provoked me and made me look for its validation or discrediting . I have asked many times about the purpose of going through depression, a painful upbringing, physical violation, and trying to integrate being gay with a Christian faith. I have wondered why other people go through years of chronic diseases and excruciating pain with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or Lyme disease. I have wondered why athletes lose their limbs and musicians lose their hearing.
Now, after asking God to prove this verse’s truth to me, the 2 Corinthians message gives me hope. It defines God and His purposes for me and for you, should we choose to accept. Romans 8:28 complements 2 Corinthians when Paul writes, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (NASB)
I have to conclude that even those things that seem most unfair and tragic can still be turned to a better use than we could have manifested in fair circumstances. We see this principle at work in the 12 Step programs, where one addict in recovery can help another like no one else can. We see it when people who have grown up poor or abused can speak to at-risk youth as someone who really understands. Nick Vujicic, born without arms and legs, can empathize and encourage the outcast and bullied kid better than anyone, just like Rick and Kay Warren can relate to parents who have lost a child or people dealing with suicide on a more intimate level than they could have before they lost their own son.
I do not believe that God takes pleasure in our suffering, and I do not know what cosmic forces bring death, destruction, pain, or grief. I do believe scripture tells us God will use the brokenness we bring Him, and that our damaged hearts and bodies are given a higher purpose and greater depth for all the hardship and sadness we go through. He rewards us by bringing people who have been broken in similar ways, and He involves us in His healing process.
As Rick Warren writes in The Purpose Driven Life , “God never wastes a hurt.” God allows me to comfort others, which in itself is a reward. As I have struggled with mental illness, God has crossed my path with those a few steps behind me in their processes. As I have struggled with PTSD and trauma, I have met more people going through what I have gone through, and my experience is my credibility. I can tell those people that I see their pain with the eyes that have cried over similar pain, and I can tell them these same eyes see hope on the other side. This is how God brings the essence of joy out of a shipwreck – out of the addictions, the emotional abuse, the domestic violence, the molestation and the rape, the loss of a job or family member. God wastes nothing, and knowing this is a comfort to me.