Have you ever seen one of those commercials promoting some fantastic new gadget for a ridiculously “low price?” The one I remember best is the Ginsu Knife. I remember the announcer’s voice like I heard it yesterday: “It slices, it dices…” What kept you tuned in was the fact that they didn’t tell the price. As they extolled each virtue of the product, they would interject the phrase, “But wait, there’s more!” after which they would show you another amazing aspect of the gadget. Following that, they would say, “NOW how much would you pay?” followed by yet another glorious attribute of this fantastic product, and so on. By the end of the commercial, the viewer would be convinced that the knife was worth much more than the “three low payments of $9.99 plus shipping and handling,” and would rush to the phone to make that call.
This commercial came to my mind as I read 2 Corinthians 1: 3 & 4 this morning.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. –2 Corinthians 2: 3 & 4
The phrase, “NOW how much would you pay?” echoed especially loudly in my mind, as I thought about how our suffering enables us to comfort and encourage other sufferers. This passage tells us that, as we suffer, God comforts us and, because God comforts us in our suffering, we are able to comfort others with the same love and comfort we receive from Him! What an honor to be a comforter who has been trained by the ultimate Giver of Mercy!
But what does this have to do with my Ginsu knife illustration? Well, I’ll answer that question by asking another one: What is the price of this comforter training? According to this passage, it is suffering. But how much suffering will be required? Can I get my training for the low price of just three easy troubles and be done with it? Well, maybe. But it seems to me that the level of expertise in comforting is directly correlated with the intensity and response to suffering. Those who have suffered much, responded biblically, and been comforted by God seem to be better comforters than those who have been spared such suffering, or consistently responded with self-pity, anger or bitterness.
We do not become comforters by taking a special training course or reading books. Even a thorough knowledge of the Bible won't do the whole job of making us merciful comforters. It is God’s comfort in our suffering that teaches us mercy, compassion, kindness, and wise words of encouragement. I have had excellent training in biblical counseling, and have learned a great deal about the mechanics of counseling and the process of biblical heart change. But it is the comfort and mercy of God that I experience in my suffering that gives me my passion for comforting others. Because I have suffered, those that I counsel know that I speak from experience. But more importantly, because I have been comforted with the comfort of God, I know that there is hope, and because He has spoken to me so clearly through His Word, I know how to encourage others with it.
So, how much would you pay to gain the ability to reflect the comfort of the Lord onto a broken and hurting sister? You could be used of God to change someone’s life! Now how much would you pay? But wait, there’s more! You could share your testimony of suffering with a whole room full of people, who would then go out and share that with someone they know, doubling that encouragement! NOW how much would you pay? But wait. There’s more! You could hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” from your creator when you meet him! There is no price too high for that kind of commendation, especially when you consider the price He paid to be your eternal comforter. I’d like you to take a moment and think about your own suffering. How has the Lord used it in your life? How are you responding to your trial? Are you responding in such a way that you are becoming a better comforter? Or are you moving away from the model of Christ, and more toward your own natural response?
I never bought a Ginsu knife because when I did the math, those three easy payments plus shipping and handling seemed way too high for a knife. But then I used a friend’s Ginsu, and was highly impressed with its sharpness and precision in cutting, and thought maybe it really was worth that price after all. As I think back on my suffering, and the skill in counseling I've gained, I would say it was worth the price. None of the payments were small or easy, but I do believe the price was fair, considering the price He paid for my training. And I hope that those who come to me for comfort will agree, and want to buy what I’m selling: The sweet comfort of the mercy of God in the midst of trial.