By Rev. David Scudder
Here is a no-brainer: life is sometimes really difficult, and no one likes those hard times. I am no different. After all, who likes painful circumstances or things that interfere with our future hopes and plans?
Some people have argued that if God loves His followers, and if He is all-powerful, then why does He allow them to suffer? Christians do suffer much the same as non-Christians, and sometimes they suffer even more–just because they are Christians. The often-unspoken question becomes, is God actually good?
I’m going to show you that Christians can find wonderful and encouraging benefits from their hardships. Instead of dreading difficult trials, the Bible actually tells Christians to see them as something good. No really, it does! It says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2).
Only crazy people enjoy pain, so there must be some powerful benefits that make the pain that God allows to be worth it. The amazing truth is that Christians can actually have peaceful hearts, and even joy, that trials can’t take away. We just have to look at trials the way God wants us to.
Let’s start with one truth that I think we can all agree on. Hardships actually bring our weaknesses to the surface. They don’t create them. One author calls this the “tea bag syndrome.” Hot water doesn’t change what is in the tea bag; it just draws out what is already in there.
Those difficulties in life show us the problems that are lurking inside our hearts. Just as a doctor must discover what is wrong with us before he can treat our illnesses, we too must see what sins we are struggling with before we can turn to God for His cure. God can show us how to overcome sins like fear, worry, anxiety, and impatience. Trials show us how much we need His help.
Let’s take patience as an example. Most of us tend to think of ourselves as pretty patient people–until something or someone interferes with our schedule or hurts our feelings. Actually, those inconveniences don’t make us impatient. They just reveal how little patience we have inside of us. That is hard to admit, but admitting it makes the cure possible.
We need to be delivered from the evil of thinking that we know more than we do. We need to be delivered from the evil of thinking that our way is better than God’s way. We need to ask God to deliver us from the evil of not trusting His promises. We need God to deliver us from the evil of forgetting that life is all about God’s glory and not all about our comfort.
It is tiresome to be at the mercy of life’s difficulties. Many of us are happy only when things are going our way. When life is painful and difficult, too many of us who are called by the name of Christ tend to complain and get discouraged. If we see trials as gifts from God that are intended to help us grow up in our faith, then we can have contentment that is not affected by the ups and downs of life.
That is why the Bible tells us that we are “… no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:14–15).
Here is another encouragement for Christians who are facing difficulties. Jesus Himself will provide a peace and comfort that is much greater than any trial life sends. He said this to His followers, “… in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The solution to our disappointments is found in Jesus Christ. When we have a relationship with Him, we want to know Him better. He offers us a chance to do that through the challenges we face in life. That sounds impossible, but the peace Jesus promises is supernatural. Jesus explained it this way, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do, I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27).
The Apostle Paul, who endured much unfair suffering, also experienced an amazing amount of comfort. That is why he said, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7).
Our sufferings can be huge, but the comfort that is available to us through Christ is always bigger. “For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:5).
Christians learn that suffering is intended to bring them closer to Jesus, the One they love. As we get to know the Lord better by reading and learning His Word, we have more and more peace that non-believers know nothing about. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:15–16).
If you love Jesus, then getting to know Him better is a high priority for you. At Bethel Chapel Church we love Jesus, and we spend a lot of our time together learning about Him from the Bible. That time together is always an encouragement. We’d love to have you join us.
Bethel Chapel Church is located at the corner of K & Lycoming Streets in Juniata Park. Website: http://www.BethelChapelChurch.com — You can email Rev. Scudder at DaveBethel@gmail.com — His column appears weekly in the Juniata News.