“Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” is the refrain our hearts are prone to lament in the midst of suffering. Our tune of disappointment drowns out the voice of others who seek to comfort us. We sense that we are helplessly alone as we belt out the modern version of the song, which continues saying, “nobody knows my sorrow.” Everyone’s (Facebook) life seems to be suffering-free. We imagine that the only person who could help us is someone who has experienced the exact same suffering and so at best we isolate ourselves with a few others in our same boat. However God has much more for us, he calls us to suffer alongside his people. Therefore I want you to sing the original version of the song, along with my addition of three words at the end, which exclaims, “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus (and his people).”
By God’s grace I want to encourage you with the reality that suffering leads us to Jesus as he was “acquainted with our grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) And Jesus leads us to find comfort from him through his people because Jesus has given them a deep understanding of all suffering. I believe one of the keys to not seeing ourselves alone in suffering is to properly interpret a common passage on suffering: 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. As we look at this verse we will find that we can reject the lie that no one understands me or that the only real comfort comes through those who have experienced the same suffering that we have experienced.
2 Corinthians 1 is a classic passage to offer those who are suffering because it reminds us that our comfort comes from God and that God uses our comfort to make us agents of comfort to others. Verse 3 reminds us that it is God who is the chief Comforter and he is the source of all true comfort: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” God’s comfort is full, exhaustive and all-encompassing. Out of the nature of God as Comforter we find the overflow of his consolation as the one “who comforts us in all our affliction.” This is the primary point that Paul makes. We could stop here and say that God does something beautiful with suffering by pointing us to his all-sufficient comfort.
But verse 4 continues to give us another use for suffering: that we might become agents of God’s comfort. He comforts us in every affliction “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.” Notice the point is not simply to say, “if you have experienced suffering in this particular way then from now on you will be able to comfort or receive comfort from those with the same experience.” No, on the contrary, it is saying that those who receive any comfort from Christ (in ANY affliction) will then be able to comfort those facing ANY trial. Rather than this verse highlighting how you can be an expert on a particular type of suffering, instead, it says that if you know God’s comfort then you are now an expert in ALL affliction.
The common bond between us and our brothers and sisters is not our common experience but our common comfort. Verse 4 continues saying we comfort “with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
We have all received the same comfort from the same source and all “share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ.” (verse 5).
What are the implications for those suffering?
1) Your suffering is linked to the suffering of Christ. This means that you are not alone in your suffering. No matter how unique your particular suffering the good news is that comfort comes to us from one source. It may seem like no one understands but Jesus does understand and identifies himself with you as his own body.
2) Your suffering is linked to the suffering of the body of Christ, his people. Rather than isolating ourselves from others we should understand that they are fully equipped to be a heaven-sent consolation and refreshment. Therefore, as hard as it might be, pursue Christ’s people in the midst of suffering because they are a means to heavenly comfort.
What are the implications for those seeking to give comfort to those suffering?
1) Acknowledge to struggling Christians that you do not understand the extent of their pain but that you do know the comfort of the Savior who does understand it.
2) Be bold in entering into the lives of those in crisis because you have the balm of the gospel that is sufficient for any manifestation of pain in this life. If you don’t know what to do or say, simply read 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (or another passage), pray, and look for ways to serve this individual.
And finally remember Peter’s words exhorting us to remain “standing firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:9-10
Author: Rev. Micah Vickery
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