Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How comforters are created

Sunday evening, Becky joined our family and Joan for dinner. As dinner concluded, the three of us gals found ourselves sitting around the dinner table talking about infertility and pregnancy loss. Both Joan, Becky, and I have each travelled (and are travelling) a lengthy and hard road to parenthood. It was wonderful to be able to talk with two kindred spirits about a topic so close to my heart.

Joan had shared a devotional passage with me from one of Charles Stanley's publications early on in her visit to Eglin. I have found many scriptures that have brought me comfort in the course of our journey to parenthood, but I don't remember ever having read this scripture:

2 Cor 1:3-4 "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 have received from God."

How have I missed these verses for all these years?!

I can vividly remember walking out of a public restroom stall during an especially painful time of our infertility journey. I don't remember exactly where I was or exactly which bad news we had just received. But I do remember shutting that bathroom stall door, putting my face in my hands, and sobbing. I remember telling the Lord, "That's it! That's enough pain! I now feel like I have experienced enough pain to understand it and provide understanding to others."

Looking back, I can now see that I didn't possibly have enough understanding to relate to the plight of others on this journey. God needed me to have more. He needed me to really go into the valley so that I could truly understand the hurt people feel when they are there. Being in the valley is horrible. It hurts so badly. But he needed me to be there so I could understand what it felt like.

That pain has allowed me not only to be there for new friends like Becky as they travel the road we just travelled. It is a pain that transcends infertility and moves into many other realms. I remember the divorce of another dear friend. As I sat in my living room crying with her, I remember feeling like I understood exactly what it felt like to have a dream ripped out from underneath you. She had so many thoughts and plans and hopes for her life. What did she do with those dreams that would never come true? I didn't understand what divorce felt like. But I did understand what the loss of a dream and the grief that accompanies that loss feels like. That I understood.

Here is the devotional in its entirety. I pray it ministers to you as it has to me.

Job asked a challenging question in his time of suffering: "Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10). Even hardship has a place in the Lord's plan.

During a particularly painful time in my life, I decided that I ought to glean something from my distress. That decision allowed the Lord to open up a well of compassion in my heart that I often dip from to comfort those facing similar trials.

I found great solace in Paul's words about God, who "comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction" (2 Cor 1:4). Think about the kind of people you seek out when you feel hurt. You want someone who has felt your pain, right? A person who's walked the path we find ourselves on can understand our suffering and provide wise counsel. According to the apostle, passing through a "valley experience" prepares us to be a blessing and encouragement to those who must go through something similar later. What's required is that we accept the adversity He has placed in our way and choose to learn from the situation.

God is the Lord and Master of our life, and He therefore has the right to use us as comforters and encouragers to those in our sphere of influence. As His servants, we must be willing to receive whatever training is necessary to complete His will, even when it hurts. Do not waste your suffering! Instead, use it to bring glory to the Lord.