For 16 years, my wife has been affected dramatically by a chronic illness. When she was diagnosed, she was told that she would be unable to complete college and could rule out any possibility of a real career in her future. Since that time, God has given her grace to complete her studies, work as an outstanding teacher, marry a great guy (if I do say so myself), enjoy motherhood, and endure many surgeries and daily pain all while being faithful to God and her ministry opportunities. She is an amazing lady, no doubt, yet she will tell you that her source of strength and comfort is the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:20-21).
Over the years, one peculiar thing really stands out to me. Since her diagnosis, she has met so many people with major medical problems that I’ve lost count. At first glance, it may seem like a coincidence. However, the Scriptures teach that there is a purpose that God seeks to fulfill through our trials and tribulations. That means that my wife has a purpose and has embraced it despite the hardship.
You may be thinking, “Do you mean to tell me that God has ALLOWED me to suffer on purpose?” If so, your presupposition is correct. God allows us to go through trials on purpose. That might lead to your next question, “Why would a loving God allow us to endure such heartaches and pain?”
I believe there are two reasons:
1) Because God’s grace is sufficient to comfort you in any tribulation, and
2) Because He wants you to be a comforter to others who are going through their own troubles:
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. – II Corinthians 1:3-5
Notice the phrase, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation.” That shows us that God desires to comfort you when you experience difficulty. However, notice also the next phrase, “That we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble.” He comforts us, and in turn we are supposed to comfort others.
An excellent illustration of this concept is found in the biblical story of a man named Jairus:
And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him. And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him. And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. – Luke 8:40-44
Jairus’ life was changed by a woman who interrupted his urgent message to the Master. Yet, if it weren’t for this divine appointment, Jairus may have never gained the faith necessary to see the answer to his request.
What was so special about this woman’s testimony that made it so powerful? Let’s examine her situation:
The Problem She Was Facing
And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. – Luke 8:43-44
According to Leviticus 15:25, a woman was considered unclean for the duration of her issue of blood. She would normally be separated seven days to allow the issue time to pass, but this woman’s issue lasted twelve years so she was considered unclean that entire time. To be “unclean” meant that she was restricted from interacting with society and everything she touched had to be set apart. It was a concept illustrating “holiness” meant to teach the nation of Israel the difference between holy living and unholy living. The separation was a burden, and it kept her away from many comforts and companions. In an attempt to remedy her condition, she visited many physicians to seek help. The Jewish physicians would concoct various mixtures of herbs and medicines which were to be consumed with grape juice. If one mixture was not effective, then another one with different herbs would be prescribed and taken. Basically, this woman tried everything for twelve years, and the doctors couldn’t do anything to help her. She wouldn’t want to make public her problem. Such exposure would be embarrassing. Yet, her malady was continual and there is no evidence that there is a pause in her pain. Her disorder ruined both her heath and her wealth – she spent all her energy and money trying to find healing. She was now at her lowest point of despair. As it has been well said, “man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” Now could the power and goodness of God be shown in this most difficult and distressful case.
Perhaps you’ve experienced the same problems with a chronic illness or other infirmity. Over the years, we’ve spent thousands of dollars on hospital visits, medicine, treatments, and doctors in order to find some relief from the pain. It is easy to gain new hope with each new medicine that comes along, but equally discouraging when the pain lingers and restricts what would otherwise be a “normal” life. It is taxing in so many ways to deal with illness or other trials. Many often wonder where to find help. Just like this woman, the problem she was facing could be handled by the person she was following…
The Person She Was Following
And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace. – Luke 8:45-48
No doubt, this woman had heard of Jesus and must have been familiar with the prophecy of Malachi 4:2 which spoke of the healing which the Messiah would have in the wings. In their Hebrew custom, the “wings” were a part of the prayer shawl worn by the Jews. She mixed the Word of God with faith, and it became profitable to her (Hebrews 4:2). She believed the word of God, and by faith she reached out to the Messiah. Immediately, she was made whole!
Jesus perceived that He was touched and that virtue was gone out of Him. The word “virtue” is the translation of the Greek word for “power.” This original word is the origin of our English word “dynamite.” Such enormous power flowed from Christ that it is clear to see how the woman was healed so quickly and potently. Christ asked who touched Him, not because He was uncertain but as an attempt to extend an opportunity for the woman to share her testimony. The woman, still struck with amazement at what just happened to her, came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. No longer inhibited by the malady and misery of her pain, she testified of the miraculous power of Jesus’ touch.
It is common to man to experience hardship and heartache (I Corinthians 10:13). The uncommon occurrence is for Christians to seek by prayer the touch of God to comfort them during their trials. Before moving forward, let’s be clear about this: God does not completely heal every person of their illnesses nor does He always remove the problem. Two great examples of this truth stand out in the Bible: the affliction of the Apostle Paul (II Corinthians 12:7-9) and the fiery trial of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3:16-18). In both cases they experienced hardship, but God did not take that hardship away. Instead, God supplied His grace to endure the hardness of their trial. In all three cases, everyone came through the trial with something very powerful: a testimony of God’s grace and power! Like them, if the problem you are facing is turned over to Jesus, the person you should be following, then He provides the promise that the trial has a greater purpose for you to fulfill.
The Purpose She Was Fulfilling
While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master. But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole. – Luke 8:49-50
Remember Jairus? Let’s not forget about him just yet. While the woman was sharing her testimony, someone from Jairus’ house came to him with bad news. His twelve year old daughter, the one for whom he came to request healing, had died. The messenger saw no further need to meet with Jesus, but the Lord arranged this opportunity to address Jairus’ deeper problem: his lack of faith. Jairus’ heart was filled with fear as he heard the news. He was struggling with pain beyond the description of words; his daughter now lay dead who perhaps succumbed to an illness she wrestled for twelve years. You see, if Jesus was content to heal the woman and move on, He would have done so. If His intention was simply to make her whole, then He would have had no reason to single her out before the crowd. Jesus drew out the woman’s testimony to influence the heart of Jairus. “Fear not: believe only” was the Master’s plea. Before the woman came along, Jairus fell at the feet of Jesus to beg Jesus to help except he had not truly believed (Luke 8:41). His lack of faith prohibited Christ from answering his request, as it does in our lives as well (James 1:6-7). Now, more than ever, Jairus needed the Saviour. The timing of the Lord was impeccable. Jairus was able to witness a miracle first hand, and it made all the difference. Because of Jairus’ revived faith, the Lord returned to his home to help the family. He spoke to the girl and she came back to life! I can imagine the complete relief from sorrow and release of tears as those parents rejoiced at the recovery of their beloved daughter. A miracle was done in Jairus’ home because of his faith…or could we say because of the woman’s testimony?
Two stranger’s lives converged on one scene to portray a powerful and practical truth. In Jairus’ story, we see that the Lord will use trials in our life to reveal our faith and strengthen our prayer life. In the woman’s story, we see that the Lord will give us a testimony that must be shared with others. If His power is used only to affect our lives, we have abandoned an opportunity to share that power with others. Just as with the woman with the issue of blood, God desires to give us comfort in our time of need. This comfort is extended to us so we can have a testimony of God’s work in our lives and so we can comfort others with that testimony during their time of trouble.
When was the last time your testimony influenced the life of another person?
Isn’t it comforting to know that God is able to produce good out of everything that happens in our lives (Romans 8:28)? We will face many troubles (Psalm 34:19), but God wants to comfort us through all our tribulation. Of all people, Christ suffered far beyond measure when he hung in agony on the cross of Calvary. Because of his sufferings, Jesus understands our anguish and graciously extends abounding consolation in our suffering (II Corinthians 1:5, Hebrews 12:2).
Have you reached out to a friend, family member, or co-worker who is hurting? Won’t you be a comfort to those hurting people just as God has provided comfort for you? I want to encourage you to seek the comfort of God, and in turn comfort those around you who need to experience the comfort and love of God during their time of turmoil.