When Trouble
Comes Your Way

7-Day Devotional by Stuart Briscoe

Day 1 | The Reservoir of Deep Comfort

The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper. —Charles Spurgeon

Its ominous shadow is one of my most vivid childhood memories—an uninvited messenger of emerging danger casting a wave of gray over my otherwise sunny childhood. I heard it coming—the slow, steady growl of its engines humming in my nine-year-old ears. It was one of the great airships, a dirigible of mammoth proportions, looming over our homes near the English shores. And painted brazenly on its side was the iron cross of the Germans.   

I was deeply troubled that day, as I should have been. The shadow of the dirigible was just a shadow of unspeakable troubles to come as the Nazis rose to power and began stalking their prey. Trouble proliferates today as well, but it is delivered not by slow impending airships, but on the airwaves of instant media and communications. Daily, hourly, and moment by moment our souls are bombarded with messages of the latest threats to our freedoms, our health, our safety.

Yes, trouble abounds in abundance today and every day.

The apostle Paul was no stranger to such trouble. Beatings. Imprisonment. Shipwreck. Attack by wild animals. He alludes to these hardships throughout most of his letters, but the troubles he faced really stand out in one: Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. He can relate to us. He has felt what we feel. We see that in the unusual intimacy of this letter. Paul really opens his heart and talks about the situations in which he finds himself and the emotional impact he feels. 

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. 
(2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

Paul is very, very frank about the excruciating difficulties of his life. The message that comes through powerfully though is this: However excruciatingly difficult his life may be, he is rock-solid firm in his relationship with the Lord. In fact, he sees a very definite connection between the two. It is almost as if the more his difficulties build up, the deeper his relationship with the Lord. The more trouble he faces, the more comfort he experiences from God. And the more comfort he experiences from God, the more he can share this comfort with others facing their own trials.

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. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

Clearly, Second Corinthians is a message for all of us in our world today. We might cry out for deliverance from our troubles, yet God’s message in Second Corinthians is this: It is in our pain and in our struggle and in our problems and in our weakness that we begin to discover more of who God is.

This, then, will be the focus of our study this week. Through Paul’s words we will discover that our troubles are 1) Permitted, 2) Predictable, and 3) Purposeful. We will realize that our troubles are designed to draw us into a more intimate relationship with our God, and that we can become conduits of his comfort to those around us who need it deeply.

Yes, our days seem dark indeed. Shadows will come. Shadows will go. “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9)

My prayer, dear Lord, is very simple. I pray for the people who are deeply troubled today. As they are asking the question, “Why me?” I ask that they may understand that these troubles happen so that they might not rely on themselves, but on you, whose love and comfort are unfailing as we navigate through the shadows. Yes, may the spade of their troubles dig a reservoir for the deep comfort of your abiding Spirit. Amen.

P. 2

Day 2 | Permitted Troubles

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. —C.S. Lewis

We are fallen people; we live in a fallen world; we have created a fallen culture. There is evidence of this all around. We are subject to all kinds of pain, anguish, and deep, deep trouble. This is exacerbated by the fact that behind all these things, there is a malevolent force totally contradictory to all that God stands for—a force intent on undoing all the work of God. I know some of you are going through all kinds of problems with your children. Some of you are having difficulties in your marriage. Some of you are struggling with your job. Some of you have all kinds of health problems. Some of you are going through bereavement. Some of you are wondering how you are going to make ends meet financially. Our world faces the invisible threat of viruses and disease. War, it seems, always lurks just over the horizon. There is no shortage of stress; there’s no shortage of strain; there’s no shortage of trouble; there’s no shortage of pain—not in our personal lives, not in this world.

I reiterate that, when you read Paul’s writings under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Second Corinthians, the words come through a man who understands our deep, deep trouble. A partial list of his troubles is shared later in the letter.

“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews….” (2 Corinthians 11:23-26)

The things to remember, however, are these: God has purposely placed us in a fallen world. He permits the evil one to do his work, and God permits these troubles because He has a specific purpose in mind.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

This is not a consolation. Troubles are an invitation to a more vibrant relationship with the God of all—the God who is light, and who can bring rays of hope and peace into our darkest hours.

Dear God,

I pray for people who, like the apostle Paul, are finding themselves under great pressure far beyond their ability to endure, despairing even their life. And I pray that in this period of time of extremity, they may understand the purposes for which these troubles have been permitted by God, that they might know you, the only true God, that they might rely on you as never before, that they might be saturated in the never-ending love and comfort you offer in the midst of trouble. Amen.

P. 3

Day 3 | Purposeful Troubles

The creature’s illusion of sufficiency must, for the creature’s sake, be shattered.…And this illusion of sufficiency may be at its strongest in some very honest, kindly, and temperate people, and on such people, therefore, misfortune must fall. —C.S. Lewis

None of us cherish being on the receiving end of trouble. We usually avoid it like the plague. Yet, there is a sweet, sweet side effect to hardship that we would never seek out by choice. Let’s be honest. Human beings have a natural bent toward self-sufficiency. Human beings have a natural bent toward doing things their own way. It is only when they get pushed to the limit that God becomes relevant. You are very aware of this. When things are going well, we proceed as if we do not need God. When things start to come unglued, then we tend to get incredibly religious. But when things are fixed, we again simply revert to “normal” levels of independence. This is a natural human tendency. It happens all the time. But God has a powerful purpose behind the trouble He permits. Look more closely:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia.…But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

The apostle Paul is making it abundantly clear that there is a very definite link between the deep troubles he is going through and his personal experience of the living God. In fact, he is saying in effect that the deeper our trouble, the deeper our relationship with the Lord can become. Did you catch that? The deeper the trouble, the deeper the relationship with the Lord. Let us face it, if we don’t have much trouble, if we can handle everything, if everything is going smoothly, then a superficial relationship with the Lord will probably do. But our love-driven “hound of heaven” God appears to have a more powerful plan.  

God intends for us to live dependently upon Him and He works His purposes to that end. You simply cannot live well if you live independently of God. You know what God will do? Occasionally He will jerk our chain. He will allow us to be pulled up short. He will permit, purposefully, some trouble to come in order that we might learn not to rely on ourselves, but on Him who raises the dead.

Yes, there’s purpose in the trouble. It is not only so that we will stop trusting in ourselves. Trouble forces us to learn to trust in God who raises the dead. And in that deeper relationship we find the peace of God which transcends all understanding as we shed our anxieties and replace them with the prayers of thanksgiving and petition. (Philippians 4:6-7) 

Yes, there is purpose in trouble. Trouble is God’s invitation, leaving you with two options. You can continue to live your life dependent upon your capabilities (which means that your life’s possibilities are going to be limited by your own abilities), or you can live your life dependent upon the God who raises the dead (which means the possibilities for life are dramatically increased).

Yes, there is purpose in the trouble. Are you willing to embrace that?

Holy Spirit, my Counselor and Comforter,

You know I am facing troubles of so many different kinds. May I choose now, in this moment, by faith, to embrace your purpose and your desire for the two of us to experience deeper relational unity through my authentic reliance upon you. May my deep trouble lead to a deeper relationship with you today, that I might walk more dependently on you and know your peace that surpasses all comprehension. Amen.

P. 4

Day 4 | Predictable Troubles

Life IS pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something —Wesley to Buttercup in The Princess Bride

I’m still surprised when I’m surprised by surprising trouble in my life. I should know better. I really should. We now know that trouble is permitted. We also know it is purposeful. Now we have to face the fact that it is entirely predictable.

In Second Corinthians 1:4-5 Paul makes a rather fascinating statement:

“Just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”

There is a definite link between the trouble Paul is going through and the sufferings of Christ. And there is a definite link between the trouble we go through and the sufferings of Christ. Remember when Paul was persecuting Christians and God knocked him off his donkey and blinded him (Acts 9)? The voice of Jesus said, “Why are you persecuting Me?” Jesus did not ask why Paul was giving the Christians a hard time; He took it personally.

You see, the thing that is so hard for us to grasp is this: If you identify with a rejected, crucified Christ, you are identifying with the One who felt the full brunt of the world’s fallenness and the full attack of the enemy of our souls. That being the case, you should not be surprised if you, too, feel the full brunt of the world’s fallenness and you feel the attack of the enemy of souls.

The sufferings of Christ are going to be experienced by those who identify with the Lord Jesus. It is predictable. We should expect it. We should not regard it as if something strange is happening to us. But we do, don’t we?

Remember that the Lord Jesus told his disciples to expect suffering right from the very beginning. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

Jesus was perfectly clear about the predictability of persecution. “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:20)

Paul even exhorted us to not be surprised when troubles come. “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.…However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1 Peter 4:12-16)

Put all this together, and you will come to a very basic conclusion: A Christian in person and the church in corporate experience are in some way, related to Christ. And in the same way that Christ suffered, we can expect that the individual Christian and the church as a whole will continue to experience the sufferings of Christ.

There is nothing surprising happening to you. In fact, it would be surprising if it did not. So, when you get into these troubles, do not assume that something strange is happening to you. Recognize that you are being given the chance to prove that you identify with the rejected, crucified Lord.

Now then, if we accept this, it changes the whole of our attitude as far as the deep troubles that we are going through are concerned. It does not take the trouble away. It does not take away the pain. It does, however, give us a much different perspective. Is this easy? Of course not. Accepting this perspective is a challenge, a challenge we all face when we are surprised by troubles.

Are you going through trouble? Can you accept the fact that the trouble you are going through is being permitted by God? Can you embrace the fact that God has a purpose in mind? Can you accept that the trouble is entirely predictable? If so, there is a very high probability that you will deepen your relationship with the living God. As a result, you will become a better person and live a richer life. 

Father of All,

I pray that I might lay hold of the inner presence of the risen Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit in me. Help me, Lord, to understand that I have been crucified with Christ and that He lives in me. Open my heart and my mind to the reality of me sharing in His sufferings. Catch me when I am surprised at my troubles. Remind me that you never promised it would be different, but rather promised that you would be with me through all troubles. Amen.

P. 5

Day 5 | The Means to His End

Some knowledge is too heavy…you cannot bear it…your Father will carry it until you are able —Corrie ten Boom

When troubles come our way, our natural inclination is to turn inward and focus on ourselves and the hardships we are going through. But when we see our troubles as being permittedpurposeful and predictable, our hearts are freed to look in a different direction.

“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 of our troubles…. (1 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Is it possible that our natural inclination to turn inward during troubles can instead be turned upward with faces raised to God and with open, empty hands lifted in praiseYes, that is what is overflowing in Paul’s life in this verse. Praise be to the God… who comforts us in our troubles. I am not talking about a god who will send a messiah to deliver us from our troubles. I am talking about the God who did send the Messiah, the Christ. His name is Jesus. Jesus means “savior from our sins.” He is neither an “unmoved mover” nor an “impersonal force.” No, He is a personal God who sent His Son in order that He might live among us, feel our pain, empathize with our trouble, die our death, and be touched with the feelings of our infirmities. He is a personal God who sent His Spirit to live in us, to guide us as the Counselor, and to sustain us as the Comforter in our troubles so that we can be His comfort to others.

Grasping the New Testament perspective on troubles can be a catalyst for genuine praise of God. But not just any god. Not the impersonal force of the pantheist. Not one of the temperamental gods of the Greeks. The God of the Christian is the “God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” who has identified Himself in His coming into our world, identifying with us, empathizing with us, suffering with us, dying for us, indwelling us, and then empowering us to live in the grace and strength of His presence in us. That is our God. And, you see, our troubles give us the invitation to know that God intimately.

God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ,

I lift my heart and my hands to you right now in worship. I praise you in the midst of my troubles for what you have done through your Son and your Spirit. By the power of your Spirit and the truth of your living Word, please refocus my thoughts upon you, your grace, your mercy and your unconditional love for me right now. Then please, use me as your vessel to bring your comfort to all around me. Amen.

P. 6

Day 6 | Relationship with Whom?

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)

When our troubles overshadow us like a stalking Nazi dirigible, we do well to remember the words God spoke through Paul in Second Corinthians. God is described as “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” We have to understand that God is compassionate. That is His internal disposition. He is intimately and deeply concerned about us. His intimate deep concern manifests itself in reaching out in order that He might comfort us in all our troubles. He comforts us with His presence. He comforts us with His promise that He will never leave us.

What good, good news this is! Paul does not minimize his troubles, nor should we. But Paul looks at them Christianly. So should we. He looks at his relationship with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of all comfort, and finally, the God who raises the dead. But that is not the end of it. No, it is just the beginning.

Praise God! 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 have received from God.…If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, 6-7)

If we miss the relationships between suffering, comfort, and each other, we may very well miss the answer to one of the great questions of humanity: Why am I going through this? Paul answers that his relationship with the Lord puts him in a deep relationship with other believers. Not only does trouble increase intimacy with God, but trouble also opens up the door for meaningful intimacy with others as we learn to share in His suffering and His comfort.

“For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation….” (2 Corinthians 1:5-6)

When under pressure, the body of Christ learns to praise together. We learn to pray for each other. And we learn to comfort each other. Why? Because we ourselves have been hurting, troubled, pained people who are not overwhelmed—we are simply driven deeper into Christ. And as such, we found the spade of our trouble digging the reservoir of our comfort deeper, filling us to be vessels and conduits of God’s love and comfort to a hurting world.

God of all compassion,

We do not want to waste our troubles. We want to use our sufferings for your intended purposes. Please stir up your Spirit within us, that we might embrace the sufferings that bring us together as your body, that we might share your comfort between us, and then let that comfort flow to all around us in a way that brings ultimate glory to you and the Gospel. Amen.

P. 7

Day 7 | Comforted in Order to Comfort

Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests. —Epictetus

Years ago, in the depth of the Cold War, I received a letter inviting me to the “Polish Millennium.” Well, how would you treat that? Certain that I was being set up by some of my weird friends, I set it aside and waited for someone to claim the joke.

Then I got the call. “You didn’t answer our letter, Sir. We sincerely invite you to the Polish Millennium.”

“What in the world is the Polish Millennium?” I asked.

“It is the celebration of 1,000 years of Christianity in Poland,” the man said. “We want you to come, speak, and help us celebrate.”

“Seriously?” I asked.

“Seriously,” he said.

“Well, why me?”

“Well, to be perfectly honest, the Catholics wanted the Pope to come speak, but the Communists blocked it. The Protestants wanted Billy Graham to come, but the Catholics were so ticked that they said, ‘If we can’t have the Pope, we’ll make sure you can’t have Billy Graham.’ So, everybody is arguing about the Pope and Billy Graham, but nobody has ever even heard of you, so we’ll sneak you in!” (Flattering, right?)

Before I knew it, I had a plane ticket to Warsaw. Then reality started to set in. This was during an extremely tense season between the East and West. Communist Poland was controlled by the iron fist of the militantly atheistic USSR. Christians were often taken away and never heard from again. “Don’t bring any addresses. Don’t bring any names. Don’t bring any telephone numbers. Don’t bring any correspondence,” they told me. “Things are difficult here. Just come. We’ll meet you.”

They didn’t of course. I stepped off the plane that night into a cold concrete airport. Outside, it was just blackness everywhere, with cold, sleet, snow, bitter howling winds. I waited, and I waited. Dark thoughts began to swirl in my tired mind. 

You are alone. You are vulnerable. Why are you here? Why, why did you decide to do this? Get out of here!  I checked to see when the next plane could get me out. One week. My thoughts shifted to my wife Jill, back home alone with the kids. You are a fool. What will happen to them if, when, you are arrested… Slowly the airport emptied. Not a soul around. Nowhere to go. No hotels. No money… and no place to hide from the secret police who would soon find me. There was nothing, nothing I could do but stand, waiting, alone, for the inevitable. I was, unquestionably, in deep, deep trouble.

After a half-hour completely alone, I heard footsteps behind me, coming for me. This is it. I’ll go quietly. I turned, and there he was. Long leather coat, collar turned up, white brimmed hat, brim turned down, hands deep in his pockets. He advanced toward me and grabbed me. My knees buckled.

And then… he kissed me. First on the right cheek and then on the left… and then, to my total British embarrassment, he kissed me right on the front, too.  “Brother Briscoe, welcome! I’m sorry I was delayed. Come quickly. Come quickly!” We rushed outside and jumped on a streetcar. As we held on to the strap on the streetcar jerking back and forth, my fear began to dissolve in his comforting fearlessness.

“Speak loudly of Jesus, speak loudly of Jesus!” he said.  

“This is a communist country! This is the Cold War!” I protested.

“Speak loudly of Jesus!” he said.

“I can’t speak Polish,” I argued.

“Ah, but you know German and English and so do many of them. Speak German. Speak English. Speak loudly of Jesus!”

And so, hanging on to the straps bouncing back and forth, I began to speak loudly of Jesus in English and German as total silence enveloped the streetcar. People were straining to listen as I sensed the Holy Spirit begin to use me as His mouthpiece among these people who had never heard of Jesus. I felt elated, energized, and a deep joy. But suddenly I was overcome by a sense of shame. You know why?  Because a few minutes earlier, in the midst of my troubles, I wanted to get out of there. I wanted to go home. I wanted to be safe. What had made the difference? My friend had come. My friend had comforted me. And now, I was comforting those who needed it desperately.

Embarrassed, I remembered the promise of comfort that Jesus left all of us at His ascension. “Thou, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” And I thought to myself, Briscoe, you preach that around the world, and you don’t really believe it.

He comforts us in all our troubles. How? Through His promise, through His presence. But notice, He doesn’t comfort us in all our troubles so we could be comfortable. He comforts us in all our troubles in order that we might comfort those who are in trouble.

“If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 

 Let there be no doubt. Suffering, pain and trouble will come. The troubles are permitted, purposeful, and predictable. God will not allow us the privilege of sitting around and saying, “Why me?” He will not allow us the privilege of just saying, “Comfort me.” No, He allows the things to come into our lives so that we, in discovering His comfort in a way we never did before, will be equipped to comfort others like we never could before.

Almighty God,

We believe in your goodness. We believe in your power. We believe that you know all things. We believe that you are good and love us without condition and will never forsake us or abandon us. We believe. Help our belief.

By the power of your Holy Spirit within us, may we be quick to remember that our difficulties are an invitation to join you in a deeper relationship. May we seize upon the truth that without you we can do nothing, but through you, we can become strong in our weaknesses. That through your comfort, we can be used as conduits of your comfort among those who need your love and touch. When we face troubles of many kinds, may your peace, which surpasses all comprehension, guard our hearts and our minds in the knowledge of your Son Christ Jesus always. Hear our prayers. Let our cries ascend unto you, in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

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