"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. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 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)
Suffering highlights God’s character of comfort and compassion. As suffering overflows, so does comfort. God has given me as much comfort as suffering throughout my cancer battle. The expressions of comfort are many. People I’ve never met have sent me cards and care packages and continue to pray for me. I’ve had meals brought to my house. I’ve had people clean my house and do my laundry. I’ve had people raise money so my family could go on a vacation. People have taken me to chemo and picked up my kids from school or taken care of my kids when I’ve been too tired. Many have listened to me, cried with me and prayed with me. All this comfort is meant to be passed on to others who suffer.
"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. 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. 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, 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 Corinthians 1:8-11)
Suffering with cancer has pushed me emotionally beyond “my ability” to endure. I’m not strong enough emotionally or physically. I have needed to rely on God being moved by the prayers of others. In my weakest times, I can’t even rely on my own prayers – I need the church’s prayers, my family’s prayers, all the Facebook friends who pray faithfully for me. “Gracious Favor” is when people I have never met before. . .who I’ve done nothing for. . .are praying for my healing from Stage 4 cancer – "the sentence of death".
"We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia." (1 Thessalonians 1:2-7)
As a disciple of Jesus, I have been "chosen by God" to endure a cancer battle. Suffering is not an excuse to be unspiritual. . .it is an opportunity to "be a model to all the believers". Endurance and remaining faithful through trials is inspiring. Paul, Silas and Timothy were inspired by the church in Thessalonica because they imitated the Lord "in spite of severe suffering". "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:3-5)
Suffering is productive! It produces Perseverance, Character and Hope. When I put my hope in God, he "poured out his love into my heart by the Holy Spirit".
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)
Trials are all part of a divine process to mature me spiritually. God may allow suffering just so that I will call on him for help. It is more about strengthening my relationship with Him; increasing my awareness of him. Suffering exposes my true opinion of God – do I really believe his is a god of "unfailing love".