My dad had a friend named Bill the last years of his life. Bill W made a great change in his life and the funny thing is that Bill had died years before my dad got involved with him. Bill W, of course, was the alcoholic who founded Alcoholics Anonymous. One of the theories behind AA is that someone who has been through the troubles of alcoholism is going to be more likely to help another alcoholic than a treatment center run by people who have never struggled. I don’t know much about the overall program, I was fortunate enough to quit drinking before I crossed over the line into alcoholism, but I do know that Bill W was a great friend that helped my father and, that my father then helped many others in their fight to kick their problems with alcohol.
AA and other groups like it do an amazing job of helping other people deal with addiction problems because the people involved have dealt with those same problems. They can empathize with the addict without getting all mushy and soft. They know what can be done. Because they’ve been through the process, they know what to do, how to do it and, ultimately, that if you really want to kick the habit, you can. Paul mentioned a similar situation in the second 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.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
As Paul began this letter he mentioned troubles he had dealt with recently. There are indications that he had been imprisoned in the area of Asia for his faith. He despaired for his earthly life. All of that happened, though, so that he could use the stories of God’s provision during those times to help others. In this case, Paul wanted the Corinthians to receive comfort as they dealt with the same afflictions that he had dealt with. As persecution, still mostly local at this point in time, rose, it would have been easy to get discouraged and to give up on this new-found faith. I’m sure that many of the Corinthians must have thought, if not said out loud, “These things never happened before I started following Christ. Why do I keep following Him?” Paul’s experiences shouted out to those people: “I know. I understand. I’ve gone through those issues. There is light at the end of the tunnel and God is faithful no matter what circumstances you may find yourself in.”
The trials we go through, whether because of our faith or in the midst of our faith are always useful because our story can help others. My wife and I are now the “go-to” people for many on the issue of cancer. She’s been through it twice. I’ve been a care provider both times. When someone we know has cancer, they call Lucy. I often have the opportunity to minister to the caregiver. I would not wish cancer on anyone – especially not chemo – but praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble. I don’t know what difficulties you’ve had in life. I don’t know what difficulties you’re going to have in life. My belief, though, is that you will have troubles. You can either complain about them or you can hand them over to God and watch how He cares for you during those troubles. When you recognize His mercy and grace during those times, you’ll be able to share about that with others who will have the same trouble later. Praise God in the midst of the storms and use what you learn to help others.
Oh Lord, troubles come. It would be so nice if we could turn to you and live happily ever after, but we face the same difficulties that others do. Carry us through because of our faith, and let us help others.