I could hear his words of comfort and encouragement over the hum of the engine. It was hard to believe that he had been so apprehensive about this trip. He didn't think he had the skills or the knowledge to actually DO mission work. Oh, and there was the other thing. It was physical problem, a genetic abnormality. It had affected his appearance, which had resulted in plenty of cruelty during his teen years. He didn't want to make others uncomfortable and he didn't want to be the object of ridicule either. In fact, he just wasn't sure he was the man for the job. Yet, it seemed that God was telling him to go.
It was almost 10:00pm as the van rolled along this winding West Virginia road. Most nights had been noisy as we delivered children to their homes. Songs, crafts, and Bible School refreshments helped pump up the volume. But on this particular night, there was only the hum of the engine and the passionate voice of my young friend as he reassured a teen-aged girl about the gracious love God. She was a gangling teen with glasses and a mild case of acne. During the entire week of Bible School, she had been quiet and withdrawn. But on this particular night, my friend (who knew how it felt with be ostracized) simply encouraged her to talk. And she did! She began to speak about her awkwardness and the rejection she had experienced at school and in the mobile home park where they lived. Her pain was real and my friend could relate.
There is no professional counselor or pastor anywhere who could have had a greater positive effect on her that night. My friend simply focused compassionately on the reality of her pain. He listened, he heard, and he understood. He had been there. With a Christ-like gentleness, he talked about family and church as support systems. But his most comforting words were about the unconditional, life-changing, attitude-adjusting love of Jesus.
She disappeared with a wave and a smile into the shadows around her front door. At that moment, I understood why God had so strongly urged my friend to go with us to West Virginia. There was a fifteen year old girl there who needed exactly what he could offer.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church that it is ". . . God our merciful Father and the Source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (New Living Translation) That's exactly what my friend did. God used him to do for this young girl what I, a trained pastor, could not do. In fact, there was no one else on our team who could have had as dramatic effect on her life. Out of his own suffering, he offered empathy, support, love, and Jesus.
So what pain have you endured? What are you suffering through now? If there is anything good that can come for it, it is that your suffering can equip you to be a channel for God's comfort and love to others. When pain and stress invade your life, look to Jesus for comfort and hope. Keep in mind that suffering offers preparation for opportunities to comfort others and offer them hope through a relationship with Jesus. Do NOT become too busy or bitter to let Him work through you to help someone who is hurting,