Weather old, young, rich, or poor we all need help deciding or coping in a matter at some point in our lives. Perhaps like me, you have heard the very good counsel that goes something like this, "If you are having car trouble then you want to talk to a mechanic, money troubles a banker, marriage a marriage counselor." This is very good advice, which recognizes that God has gifted different people with different strengths and gifts for the benefit of His Church according to Ephesians 4.
What about in matters of suffering? Is it equally good advice to encourage those that are currently suffering to seek out those that have suffered? Is it enough to have suffered in this case? Or should suffering well be a requirement for those looking for help in their suffering? Surely one that has suffered well and is able to articulate the grace of God in their experience is worthy of their counsel being sought out. Ask anyone of these people that have suffered well and they will share with you that it was God's grace that allowed their suffering and it was for their benefit and Gods glory. In fact, it is most advisable, especially in the midst of suffering, to only seek out those that have suffered well.
Paul, as he was facing the end of his life, encouraged Timothy to suffer well with him (2 Tim 2.) Paul must have attributed a certain amount of his own spiritual growth and maturity to the suffering that he had endured. Surely Timothy was able, in some way, to be comforted by the words of his friend, who had, like him, been through so much and in the end was able to declare in Phil 2 that he preferred to die and be with his Lord. He learned to find his joy in Christ and he learned that through suffering.
Perhaps then, this could be a lesson for all of us. We must prepare for suffering. It is, after all, one of the ways that God uses to grow us into a more mature relationship and obedience. We must establish those base line fundamentals for our lives. Then, when we are in the midst of suffering, we must not seek solace or refuge from those that haven't suffered. What could they possibly offer, other than a sterile text book answer? Instead seek Jesus, He suffered much willingly for our sin and God's glory. Seek out someone with credibility and can share how it is that God used their suffering for His Glory and your good. Seek out someone that will encourage you to crawl as close to the Cross as you can possibly get. Seek out someone that will encourage you to rid yourself of all worldly ambition and seek pleasure in Christ alone. Seek a real friend.