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The Scriptures declare the Sovereignty of God, that God is good, and that God has a purpose for our suffering. It also explains the many reasons why people suffer. As we enter into others’ experiences of suffering we want our responses to be shaped by compassionate Biblical thinking. In his third element of love, Tripp calls us to identify with suffering.
Many people feel all alone when they suffer and afraid to tell others of their plight for fear of what other’s will think. We are called to identify with those who suffer as he gives example in Heb 2:10-12 where Christ Himself identifies with us. We serve a Savior who suffered and identifies with us.
Furthermore, the passage reminds us that we are part of the same family and that we are all in the same position and have a similar life experience to suffering. We are called to humility and compassion in this endeavor.
Our purpose in counseling is the connect people to the living, active, and redemptive Christ who gives them what they need. As a humble servant, others see our reliance on the same instead of looking to us for their ultimate answer. They see us relying on the same Savior. Furthermore, Christ was perfected through suffering and by this we see that suffering has a purpose. As we serve others this gives us the opportunity to make truth concrete for people. They see it lived out in our lives and they see they are to rely on Christ just as we are. Christ not only brought me through sin and suffering to change me but to minister to others and add my small story to the grand story of Christ’s Redemptive History. It exults Christ rather than people looking at us. It causes people to worship Christ rather than the counselor.
Tripp presents a model for viewing suffering and comfort redemptively. God is the source of true compassion. Thus, comfort is more than thinking the right things but having our identity is held in the hollow of the hand of the One who created and rules all things. The comfort we have received from the Lord has ministry in view so that we don’t see our comfort merely as personal but as a “one to another” help to others. God wants us to share in Christ’s suffering and is revealed throughout Scripture that it is the plan of God that we would suffer that we would be built up by it and be part of the good Christ does in others. Our suffering does not belong to us but to the Lord. He refines us by suffering that we may be of greater use to Him for the larger Body. Finally, the redemptive purpose in all of this is hope in a fallen world where hope is not rooted in achievements but that God is working in us and through us for His glory to be revealed when Christ comes again and consummates His Kingdom.
Tripp uses 2 Cor 1 to note that we ought to tell Christ-centered stories. That is to say that we ought to tell our own story in a way that removes any misperception that we are essentially different from the person you are helping. We are not gurus but Christians in need of the same Savior. We ought to share how the Lord has brought us through trials and to be honest in our struggles and failures. We should be discerning in the amount of detail and always make God the key actor in our story of redemption. We should make it clear that we are not what the person needs but Christ and the goal of our story ought to be worship and not self-congratulation.
Tripp closes the section with the fourth element of love: Accept with Agenda. The point of this is that we’re not accepting people because they’re OK just as they are but because God’s intent is to transform His enemies into His beloved children. Christ calls us to service and sanctification. God’s grace is always grace leading to change.