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Content Warning: This blog includes the topic of suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

Sarah and her translator Giselle followed a local pastor down a street. It was the second day of a short-term mission team in Latin America. The three had a great morning sharing the gospel with families in this town, and they were eager to visit more homes that afternoon.

The pastor knocked on the door of a house, and a woman and her brother stepped outside. They had been expecting the pastor, and the brother went inside to grab chairs for the group to sit on the porch. As they waited. Sarah could tell the woman was distressed. She rocked back and forth, and her face looked pained. The woman began talking to Giselle in Spanish. After a couple of minutes of dialogue, Giselle turned to Sarah and explained what was going on. Within a year, this woman had lost both her husband and her son. Her husband died in an accident. A few months later, the woman found her son in her backyard; he had taken his life.

Sarah sat silently for a moment, processing what she had just heard. The levity of the day had suddenly transformed into a dark, weighty cloud. Her thoughts immediately turned to her younger brother, who had ended his own life the year before. She looked at the woman—swaying and staring hopelessly into the distance—and prayed, “God, what do I say?”

Abounding Comfort

No one asks for pain or heartbreak to be a part of their story. Suffering is the uninvited guest who shows up abruptly and long overstays its welcome.

The early Church was well-acquainted with suffering. The apostles and believers faced harassment, imprisonment, and beatings while they watched their friends get killed for their faith. The Apostle Paul detailed his physical and emotional turmoil in his letters, which included floggings, beatings, and days without sleep or food just to name a few (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). These were heavy burdens for a group of disciples who only wanted to tell the world about Jesus.

Whether it’s grief or physical harm, suffering often prompts the question, “Why is this happening?” Paul offered an answer in his letter to the Corinthians.

“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 receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” -2 Corinthians 1:3-5

God has a purpose for pain, and suffering is never wasted. Hardships increase dependence on God (2 Corinthians 1:9) and give the one suffering the empathy to comfort someone else who is hurting. The comfort that believers receive from God is meant to be passed on to others.

Any person can provide comfort, but those who have suffered know how deep the comfort is when it comes from someone who can genuinely relate to the pain because it has been their pain, too. Christ followers with scars of their own have been given a ministry to reach out to hurting unbelievers and show them the loving comfort of the Father.

“If you have ever experienced an unexpected darkness, a silence and stillness you aren’t used to, know that these hard times, these devastating disappointments, these seasons of suffering are not for nothing. They will grow you. They will shape you. They will soften you. They will allow you to experience God’s comfort and compassion. But you will find life-giving purpose and meaning when you allow God to take your painful experiences and comfort others. You will be able to share a unique hope because you know exactly what it feels like to be them.” -Lysa Terkeurst, “It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way”

Sharing the Suffering

Sitting in front of this mourning woman, Sarah took a deep breath and said she understood how this heartbroken mother was feeling. Tears streamed down her face as she shared that her brother had taken his life the year before. Yet, Sarah continued, she still has hope. She then asked if she could explain where she finds her hope. The woman and her brother nodded.

Sarah leaned forward and told them the gospel. She explained how Jesus’ death and resurrection provided a way to get to Heaven and that in Heaven, every tear will be wiped away and pain will be no more. All they had to do to get to Heaven was accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation. When Sarah asked if they wanted to accept that gift, the brother and sister said, “Yes.”

After they prayed, Sarah gave her new sister in Christ a long embrace. She knew this woman’s pain was not completely erased, but now she had an eternal hope to cling to.

As they left, Giselle told Sarah, “Our stories are weapons God gives us on the battlefield of ministry.” She was right. Sarah never wanted this story, but her pain now allows her to comfort those who have walked her path.

Names have been changed for security purposes.