Note: This is entry 10 in a study guide series called “Four Seasons of Healing: A Pathway for Those Living with Chronic Illness.” For a list of entries click here.
Part IV: Fall: Caring for Others (September to November)
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.
Fall brings new opportunities to reach out and care for others. In 2014, I moved back to Davis, California where I had attended University of California, Davis as an undergraduate student. Davis is a quintessential college town in the Sacramento area. It’s a place where anticipation grows throughout the summer for new students to return for the fall quarter.
Some students seek assistance when settling into town and becoming acclimated to their new surroundings. The church in Davis where I pastored seeks to support college students, especially international students coming from abroad. As a campus minister, new student outreach during the fall is a wonderful time to offer hospitality to new students. The fall season is a time for those who enjoy strong friendships and community to care for those in need and transition.
I observe a similar dynamic in situations where a disparity of experience exists, including dealing with life challenges. The Apostle Paul, among many difficulties, wrote about a thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Earlier in his second letter to the Corinthians he shared how the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (1:3) comforted him. He then passed that comfort empathetically to others in their suffering. Indeed, his comfort empowered him to comfort others.
In this season, consider ways losses become meaningful in their ability to shape one’s maturity and capacity. Think about ways you can be a blessing to others as you draw from the spiritual friendships and community developed in previous seasons and months.
September: Redeeming Losses
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
I carry scarred memories from when I sat for hours as a teenager covered in a treatment paste that burned my skin at the Psoriasis Research Institute. Back then I could not see anything good coming from what I considered was wasted time. I only wanted relief from my psoriasis symptoms. I longed to hang out with my friends without worrying about bystanders asking, “What’s the rash on your hand or arm?”
In time I came to understand that something good can come from my suffering. Suffering itself is not good—it stems from brokenness and the Fall in the Garden of Eden. But God can redeem it. One way is through developing a person’s inner character and compassion for others.
Psoriasis has taught me endurance in many areas of my life. My capacity to push through discomfort grew not only for skin flares, but also for other life difficulties and roadblocks. I became a more compassionate person in the process. When I see others with life difficulties, I empathize with them more than before. My desire to redeem an otherwise bewildering situation with my health led me to write a psoriasis blog for over a decade and get involved in patient advocacy on national and local levels.
God is about redemption. He can turn the harshest of experiences into meaningful ways to impact yours and others’ lives for the better.
Share one way you, or someone you know, has grown personally through an unforeseen difficulty. What were the circumstances and outcomes of the situation?
Consider what positive outcomes can come through challenging life circumstances.
- How might experiencing a difficulty allow someone to help others going through similar challenges?
- Do you agree or disagree with the idea that suffering is not good, but God can redeem it for good? Why or why not?
For Further Thought
Review the passages from 2 Corinthians, James, 1 Peter, and Romans that speak to the role of suffering in a Christian’s life.
- List ways the biblical authors note how suffering might develop, benefit, and grow a person.
- From your own experience, reflect on a way in which you relate to the list you made in the previous question. Note it here:
- What attitude do the biblical authors adopt and profess in their teaching about suffering? How can we have a similar attitude toward suffering today?
- Optional: Some believe that a sense of reason and purpose to suffering gives it meaning. Others, however, see God as cruel when He uses suffering as a means to bring about potential good. How do you think the biblical authors of the above passages would respond to this discussion? What is your view?
Close in Prayer
Meditate on Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Pray that God would give you a joy beyond understanding through a long-standing difficulty you are facing, knowing that He can use it to produce good in your life.