When evangelist Vance Havner was in his mid-thirties, he developed a troubling nervous disorder. Previously he had been critical of people who were experiencing this condition. He said, “For 2 years I suffered from nervous exhaustion, and I learned not to laugh at nervous people.”
How easy it is to make light of the difficulties others face until we experience a similar problem! In God’s school, we learn to sympathize with a variety of frailties we thought shouldn’t affect Christians or should be easily overcome. We learn that God doesn’t deliver us quickly and easily from such conditions.
Paul was a person of great faith and strength, but his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7-10) remained with him in spite of his repeated pleas for God to remove it. Instead of resenting this “thorn,” Paul learned to welcome the resulting weakness that led him to find strength in Christ. This same apostle, perhaps because of his affliction, had earlier urged Christians to “comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Th. 5:14).
Through the emotional and physical thorns that God allows in our lives, we learn what it means to trust Him. And in the process, we learn patience and kindness toward all.
Because I've grieved and tasted bitter loss,
Because I've stumbled carrying my cross,
Because I've learned of Christ's sufficiency,
I'll show His grace to others just like me. —Gustafson
We can comfort others because God has comforted us.