People face troubles of every stripe, but the way people respond to trouble varies widely. Let me share with you a story.

A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out.

A SUBJECTIVE person came along and said:

“I FEEL for you, down there.”

An OBJECTIVE person came along and said:

“It’s logical that someone would fall, down there.”

A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST came along:

“You only THINK that you are in a pit.”

A PHARISEE said:

“Only BAD people fall into a pit.”

A MATHEMATICIAN

calculated HOW he fell into the pit.

A NEWS REPORTER

wanted the exclusive story on his pit.

A FUNDAMENTALIST said:

“You DESERVE your pit.”

CONFUCIUS said;

“If you would have listened to me, you would not be in that pit.”

BUDDHA said:

“Your pit is only a state of mind.”

A REALIST said:

“That’s a PIT.”

A SCIENTIST

calculated the pressure necessary (lbs./sq.in.) to get him out of the pit.

A GEOLOGIST

told him to appreciate the rock strata in the pit.

AN EVOLUTIONIST said:

“You are a rejected mutant destined to be removed from the evolutionary cycle.”

In other words, he is going to DIE in the pit, so that he cannot produce any “pit-

falling offspring.”

The COUNTY INSPECTOR asked

if he had a permit to dig a pit.

A PROFESSOR gave him a lecture on:

“The Elementary Principles of the Pit.”

An EVASIVE person

came along and avoided the subject of his pit altogether

A SELF-PITYING person said:

“You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen MY PIT!!”

A CHARISMATIC said:

“Just CONFESS that you’re not in a pit.”

An OPTIMIST said:

“Things COULD be worse.”

A PESSIMIST said:

“Things WILL get worse!!”

JESUS, seeing the man, took him by the hand and LIFTED HIM OUT of the pit.

Every day there are thousands of people of all ages who are falling into various kinds of pits and wondering “why?” When we find ourselves deep in the pits of life we don’t need someone to analyze our situation or share their philosophy of pits – we need out.

There is something I have noticed about us when we find ourselves sinking down in the difficult days of life. We spend a lot of time asking “Why?” Why is this tragedy, this trial, this turmoil, this trouble happening to me? Why am I the one who has to go through this painful and paralyzing experience? Why would God allow me to suffer so, and suffer so all alone? If this is my lot in life then why was I even born? Why?

Turmoil and trouble come in all kinds of packages. The human mind can’t exhaust the number of ways that people suffer, but all people have asked the question “Why?” For some an endless string of broken relationships robs us of living life with hope of a brighter tomorrow. For others financial woes bombard us with anxiety on a daily basis. Some face the horror of illness that debilitates and disables us from enjoying life and those around us. The death of a loved one drains the life out of countless human souls. Some suffer because of the sin-sick souls of others who seek to take advantage of those who are vulnerable. Some people’s addictions keep them locked away in a cell of slavery where joy and peace lie just out of reach. The list of troubles that people face is long, so long that you and I can’t even begin to understand them all, but even though we can’t understand all of the troubles we do ask “Why?”

As life unfolds before us, and as our days accumulate with the passage of time, the troubles we face pile up like garbage at the city dump gathered over a lifetime. We can try to scars and pain by bulldozing them into out of the way places in our lives, but their painful aroma reminds us of the stench of their presence. We can lock the gate of our heart and mind and try to seal them off, but in the quiet moments of our life their memory becomes more vivid than the day they visited us for the first time. We can’t seem to discard them. We can’t alleviate their annoying, agitating advance upon our desire to experience peace. Trouble and pain drain us of energy, consume our thoughts, cause us to question everything in life, dominate our daily routine, and drive us to ask “Why?”

We are not alone when we ask “Why?” There are generations before us who have asked the same question and who have come away with a myriad of answers that have served as comfort for some and condemnation for others.

An old friend who was well to do and comfortable for most of his life faced troubles that we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. In the blink of an eye he lost his children, all of his children, his hired hands, his livestock, and his livelihood. At the end of the day he looked up and all that remained of his wonderful life was his health and his wife.

When the sun came up the next day, the man was clinging to his health and his wife when he began to break out in a horrible rash. The rash grew worse and worse until sores covered his whole body. In despair he was wondering to himself, “What will happen next,” as he sat with a broken piece of pottery and scraped the sores trying to find some relief. He thought to himself, “With all that has happened to me – at least I’ve got my wife.” Just then, emotionally charged because of the days diabolical undoing she looked at her husband and said, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9 NIV) Everything he had that mattered in life was stripped from his hands and he was left sitting in the ruins of his life scrapping sores through his tears.

Friends came to try and console the man. At first they didn’t say a word, they simply sat and tried to bring some kind of comfort to their buddy. While they sat in silence the questions came like a torrent of water spilling over the dam.

Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb? {12} Why were there knees to receive me and breasts that I might be nursed? {13} For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest {14} with kings and counselors of the earth, who built for themselves places now lying in ruins, {15} with rulers who had gold, who filled their houses with silver. {16} Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day? {17} There the wicked cease from turmoil, and there the weary are at rest. {18} Captives also enjoy their ease; they no longer hear the slave driver’s shout. {19} The small and the great are there, and the slave is freed from his master. {20} “Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, {21} to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, {22} who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave? {23} Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? {24} For sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water. {25} What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. {26} I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” (Job 3:11-26 NIV)

“I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” Can any of you relate to those feelings of despair, isolation, and hopelessness? Have you ever felt that peace was out of reach and the thought of having hope was hopeless? When you have been held in the tight clutches of traumatic chaos and constraining trouble have you ever felt like you were coming apart at the seams? I certainly have experienced those empty feelings in the past. For those of you who know all too well what I am talking about, I have come to visit with you this morning about some important truths I’ve learned this week from God’s Word.

Paul speaks to the fellowship of the broken, the assembly of the agonizing, with such hope and comfort in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. For some of you who are wading neck deep in the turbulent pool of trials this morning, make no mistake about it – the God of comfort is present this morning to bring you compassion and release. Let’s get right to our Scripture found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11.

{3} Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, {4} 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. {5} For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. {6} 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. {7} 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. {8} We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. {9} Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. {10} He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, {11} as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (2 Cor 1:3-11 NIV)

We have not been left alone! Our suffering and troubles are not without purpose in our lives! God knows the path to the deepest valley of despair and the Good News is that He was already there before you ever arrived! There are such powerful lessons for us in this scripture as we go through those times in life when we are pulling our hair out and wringing our hands in desperation looking for a way out.

Let’s take a look at verses 3-4.

{3} Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, {4} 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.

You need to know that the man who wrote these powerful words was a man of immense troubles and well acquainted with difficult times of every sort. Paul wasn’t a man who wrote by the side of the pool while sipping fruit drinks. Paul knew the pain of having friends reject him. He found himself in prison on occasion. Some of Paul’s letters that we gain great strength from were written from the confines of a prison cell. Paul suffered from what he called a “thorn in his flesh.” Nobody knows exactly what the thorn was, but many have concluded that the thorn was a physical ailment that plagued Paul throughout his life. Paul served God with great zeal and commit and yet the last stage of his life was spent in a dingy, dank prison cell in Rome while the executioner sharpened his sword preparing to execute Paul.

Paul was no novice when it came to troubles in life. He wrote on the subject of God’s comfort and compassion as an authority. When he speaks to us who encounter troubles today, he speaks as a member of the fellowship of the broken and not as an outsider.

Paul says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all comfort and the God of all compassion.” There are three very important words here that I want us to be able to understand clearly. These are words that describe for us the character, attributes, and activity of God. These are words meant to give us confidence for those times that drive us to our knees in despair.

First, Paul says that God is the Father of all comfort. The Greek word that Paul uses literally means “mercy.” The King James Version and the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible translate the word, “?????????” (oiktirmon) as “mercies.” The Father of all mercies. The word means, “to show mercy and concern with sensitivity and compassion.” It can also mean “to have mercy, to show compassion, mercy, tender compassion.”

In Romans 9:15 Paul wrote that God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” The same word is used in Colossians 3:12 where Paul encourages the brothers and sisters in Colossae by saying, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Col 3:12 NIV)

Paul can only encourage his readers to clothe themselves with compassion because he knows where their compassion comes from – from the Father of all compassion, of all mercies.

The second word that I want us to understand is “para,klhsewj” (parakleseos). The word means, “to cause someone to be encouraged or consoled, either by verbal or non-verbal means. To encourage, to console, to bring encouragement.” The word is taken from the Greek word used for the Holy Spirit, the Paraklete. The word means to “call to one’s side.”

Paul wants us to know that when we are going through difficult times and troubles are pressing against us from every side, God comes alongside us to bring encouragement and consolation. You are not alone my friend. God knew of your trouble before you recognized it and He has prepared to come alongside you in order that you can make it through. You need to know that you are not in trouble, you aren’t in a desperate situation, you aren’t in trying times, you are merely going through to the other side! I’m going to make it! God is beside me leading me through to the other side!

Paul says that God is the God of all encouragement, all consolation, all comfort. In 2 Thessalonians 2 we read,

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, {17} encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (2 Th 2:16-17 NIV)

The encouragement that God brings to you and me is not simply for this life – we have eternal encouragement and good hope! This life is not all there is my friend, there is much, much more for those who will trust in Christ as their Lord and Savior.

I have shared in so many funerals that I can’t count them all. Every person’s story is different. We are born in different places, have had various occupations, and have all lived different lengths of time. There is one thing that all of those whom I have shared in their funerals have experienced in common – difficult days. No matter the age of the person I have eulogized they have seen hard times.

I approach each funeral separately since every person’s story varies, but there is one goal that I try to achieve at each and every funeral. I want folks to know about the eternal encouragement that we have received through God’s Son Jesus. We are not fatalistic as some in society are today. Neither is our hope flimsy, fictitious, or based in fantasy – our hope, our eternal encouragement rests in the hope and encouragement we have received from Jesus. Encouragement to make it through this day and the days to come so that one day we will make it to that day when we will look into our Savior’s loving eyes and hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant, well done.”

There is a third word that is important for us to understand. The word is “all.” I’ve studied it in Greek and it means “all.” I’ve taken it apart in English and it means “all.” I’ve consulted English scholars and linguistic gurus and I’ve come to a sure and solid conclusion that the word means “all.” He is the Father of all mercies! He is the God of all comfort! He is able to comfort you if you will but let Him. He is able to extend His mercies to you in a way that will lift you from despair if you will but let Him. The key is if we will let Him. We must be willing to see God’s hand at work in our lives even in the difficult times for us to be able to allow Him to bring the salve of His mercy and comfort to our wounded souls and hearts. I read a beautiful prayer this past week written by a woman who understands. Listen to her words,

Thank you, Father, for these tears that have carried me to the depth of your love. How could I have known your fullness without the emptiness, your acceptance without the rejection, your forgiveness without my failure, our togetherness without that dreadful loneliness. You have brought me to Gethsemane, and oh, the joy of finding you already there! Amen. (Bonnie Barrows Thomas)

God’s mercy and comfort are able, but we must understand that He alone can bring the comfort and mercy that we need to survive the perilous and paralyzing times that we have, and will, face in life. Paul writes in verse 4, {4} “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.”

For so many of us, when we go through difficult times, we look to other people to be our primary caregivers and to lift us out of the depths. As brothers and sisters in Christ we have the responsibility to demonstrate Christ’s love to those that are hurting. We need to pray about how we are responding to those whose lives are coming apart at the seams. It is not enough to “mean well.” I have heard some of the most hurtful things said by people who said that they meant well. Simple answers to difficult questions will never suffice.

Joe Bayly in his book, View From A Hearse, says that one of the best contributions we can make to a person going through intense suffering and loss is our presence without words, not even verses of Scripture dumped into the ears of the grieving. He said:

Don’t try to “prove” anything to a survivor. An arm about the shoulder, a firm grip of the hand, a kiss: these are the proofs grief needs, not logical reasoning. I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly, he said things I knew were true. I was unmoved, except to wish he’d go away. He finally did. Another person came and sat beside me. He didn’t talk. He didn’t ask leading questions. He just sat beside me for an hour or more, listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, left. I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.

My experience has been that it is difficult to care, genuinely care, for those who are hurting intensely. I always want to solve people’s problems, but I am learning that there are some problems that I don’t even understand much less have the ability to solve. I am learning how difficult it is to genuinely care about folks. I can easily say, “I will pray for you,” or quote a verse about how “all things work together for good,” but it is so difficult for me to care like Jesus cared. Henri Nouwen wrote about this difficulty by saying,

Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it. (Henri J.M. Nouwen)

We need to allow the Lord to teach us to genuinely care for those who are going through tough times. On the other hand, those who are hurting need to know that our love and concern will never meet their deepest needs, it can never reach the deep places of your life. I tell every family at the funerals I conduct that there is a depth of sorrow and grief that no human being can ever touch, but to take heart because God can. God can not only touch those deep places of sorrow, grief, despair, anxiety, and turmoil, but God can bring comfort and heal them if we will let Him.

God’s comfort and mercy that will result in healing come into our lives for a purpose. God is not merely seeking to alleviate the pain of our lives so that we can live footloose and fancy free, God has a higher purpose. John Henry Jowett once said, “God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.” John Henry Jowett (1817-1893) Paul says “God comforts us in all of our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” God’s purpose in comforting us is to equip us to comfort others. For some of us, we’ve wanted to have our problems fixed just so we can go on with life. God wants more for you and me than that my friend. God wants to apply His mercy to your brokenness so that you can seek out some other broken soul and comfort them with the comfort you have received. How do we do that? Good question. Let me share with you an example of comforting others.

This past Wednesday night our Men In Recovery Bible Study met at 8:30 pm. We’ve been getting together for a few months now and I can’t tell you what a blessing it has been for me to learn from the men I meet with each Wednesday. This past week was no exception. What I saw happen on Wednesday has stuck with me the rest of the week.

We were into our study and talking about the games that people with addictive personalities play to deny their need for help. I asked, “When does a person finally come to the point where they are ready to get honest and ask for help?” One of the men said, “When everything else is gone and you’ve reached the bottom.” I said, “That’s right. When we reach the bottom and our lives are coming apart at the seams then we cry out for help.”

One of the men said, “But there comes a point when you can’t ask for help anymore.” I asked him what he meant. He said, “When you’ve asked for help so many times and yet you’ve blown it even more times then there comes a point when you just can’t ask anymore. You reach the end of your rope with God.” I wish you could have seen and heard what happened after that. The men of our study shared from their lives and from their hearts how they had felt the same way at times in the past, but how they now know that God is always willing to help if we will just ask. Those mean comforted our brother with the comfort they had received from God and it was awesome.

For our friend whose life is not going so well right now, nobody could speak to his brokenness with such power and sincerity as somebody else who had been broken in a similar way. This is really nothing new for in 430 B.C. the historian Thucydides wrote, “It was in those who had recovered from the plague that the sick and the dying found most compassion.” Those who had recovered from the plague gave the best care. Why is that? Because they had been there. They had felt the despair of wondering if they were going to live or die. They were able to care for those who were dying and suffering because they had been there. This same principle was at work Wednesday night in my Bible study. Those who had felt that they had reached the end of their rope with God in the past, but were found to be wrong, were able to minister to our friend in such a powerful way.

Some of us here this morning are so deeply mired in the trouble that we are facing this morning that we can’t even entertain the thought of helping someone else. You need to know that the God of all comfort is on His way to bath you in His mercies and wrap you in His comfort. When His time is right then you will be able to minister to those who will be hurting in the future. Right now you need to allow the Lord to apply His mercy and comfort to your weary mind and soul. You may have never asked Jesus to come into your heart. You’ve been struggling, agonizing, and trying to make it through on your own power. Take it from me and countless others who have tried – it won’t work. God is waiting, more than willing, to enter in to your situation, but first you must let Him in. Won’t you do that today?

Hold On The God Of Comfort Is On His Way!
2 Corinthians 2:3-11