Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and 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.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV, 1978)

For as long as there have been those who believe in the grace and divine purposes of God, the question has been asked, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Perhaps the most popular answer I have heard (and used) has been the words of Paul in Romans 8:28 (NLT), “And we know that God causes everything (good and bad) to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Those words are an accurate and appropriate response to the question, but there is still a greater purpose in our struggles.

While it is true that I have always taken great comfort in that verse in the midst of my personal times of grief and confusion, God’s ability to comfort is never all about me. No, for my every tear and every lost night of sleep, there is someone else who is suffering a similar kind of trouble and going through a dark season that they think will never end. For them, a sermon will not suffice. A suggested Bible verse (that they may not understand) may sound hyper-religious and cold. And the old favorite, “I know exactly how you feel (even though I likely never have),” may likely derail any opportunity to actually encourage them.

In reality, Paul reminds us that our ability to comfort someone who is hurting is actually found in those past experiences when we may have asked the very same questions they are asking now.  Most 8-year-olds don’t know how to grow up with a father who has suffered the debilitating effects of massive strokes. Not every teenager has to face the loss of his only sister to breast cancer—and when prayers go “unanswered,” continue to trust God with the outcome. Trust me, it is only a tribute to God’s faithfulness that I came to understand that there is more at stake than getting my prayers answered. Regardless of the outcome, we are to bring light to those in dark places. That’s why we’re here!