in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. — Proverbs 3:6
Suffering, in all its various forms, is a universal human experience. While there often isn’t an answer to the question why suffering exists, there are many answers to how we can respond to the suffering of others. Our devotions explore how God comforts us, and how we can comfort others in times of suffering.
I want to tell you two short stories about two different celebrities. The first is about J.J. Watt who recently became the highest-paid defensive player in the National Football League. After signing his contract, a friend of J.J.’s told him he should go out and buy something that rich people have. J.J. admits that he took to his computer and researched things that millionaires might have. But none of it appealed to J.J. Instead, he decided to buy an expensive Batman costume. He dressed up and visited children in hospitals bringing them happiness in the midst of their suffering.
The second story is about actress Christina Applegate. At age 36, the successful TV star discovered that she had breast cancer. Christina was lucky and won her battle with cancer, though she literally has the scars to prove it. She attributes her survival to an MRI scan that she underwent regularly because her family history put her more at risk than the average person. The early detection saved Christina’s life. After this difficult time, Christina decided to found an organization called “Right Action for Women” which helps women who are more likely to contract breast cancer get MRI scans even if they can’t afford them.
One story is about a success in life, the other about a difficult challenge. But the reactions were the same. Each individual chose to do something good as a direct result of the situation they were in.
In Proverbs we read, “in all your ways submit to him . . .” This teaches us that we are to serve God with everything we have and in any way that we can. However, the Hebrew word for “ways,” derech, can also mean “path” or “road.” Based on that understanding, the Jewish sages offer an alternative meaning for the verse: On every path and on every road that you find yourself on in life, serve God.
That means whatever situation God has placed us in – wherever we find ourselves in our lives at any given time – is exactly where we are meant to be and there is something we are meant to do. We must serve God and submit to Him under any circumstances.
This beautiful teaching reminds us that there is always something good that we can do right here, right now. If we are experiencing difficult circumstances, perhaps we can become more empathetic, or better yet, start an initiative to help others who may have to take the same path. If we are experiencing blessings, we can take those gifts and use them to help others.
When we serve God in all situations, “he will make your paths straight,” and we will see blessings from every road we take.