Enduring Suffering and Hardship

In 1989, I suffered a sudden and complete loss of hearing.  Prior to this moment I had, of course, envisioned certain plans for my life.  But God stepped in and changed my life.  In fact, He did so with such suddenness that it was as if He had hit me with a stun gun.  

God sometimes surprises us in unexpected or unforeseen ways.   God’s purpose in doing so may be to bring about our surrender to His will.  In my own case, as a result of the dramatic change in the course of my life I consecrated my life to Him and have since been strengthened in my desire to lead a consistent Christian life knowing that He has a perfect will and plan for me.

It is through times of suffering and hardship and through patiently enduring difficulties, that God teaches us priceless lessons in life.

In a sense, life may be compared to a lawn chair, liable to buckle and collapse without forewarning.  But physical limitations need not limit the spirit.  Struck down does not mean destroyed.  It gets dark when a train enters a tunnel but that is no reason to throw away your ticket and jump off.  Instead you sit still and trust the engineer (Corrie Ten Boom).  In the same manner, I decided to press ahead in my life in spite of the odds against me.  It is important to remember to not lose heart even when circumstances seem to be at their worst.  

Never waste time by standing in line to complain.  Instead, recognize that God often prepares people through an extended period of waiting to shape their character and give them a greater depth of knowledge in the Scripture.  Joseph was a man who could have been very bitter.  He had been the object of his brothers’ hostility as well as suffered numerous other injustices.  But Joseph did not yield to complaining because he saw God’s hand in his circumstances.  Even Joseph’s years in prison were a time of training for his eventual rule over the nation.  God overruled the evil intent of Josephs’ brothers for his good (Genesis 50:20).

A pertinent thought was found scratched into the brick wall of a prison cell in the Tower of London.  It read, “It is not adversity that kills, but the impatience with which we bear the adversity.” Face the reality and recognize that because God has allowed this trial to come into my life, He must have some good purpose in it.   Perhaps, for the moment, I don’t know what that purpose is, but one day it will be known to me.  In the meantime, it develops strong Christian character in my life.

It is through times of suffering and hardship and through patiently enduring difficulties, that God teaches us priceless lessons in life.  At the end of the course, one may say, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Psalm 119:71, KJV).  Nathaniel Hawthorne, the novelist, has stated, “Happiness in life is like a butterfly, which when pursued is always beyond our grasp. But if you sit down quietly, it may alight upon you.”  God is always available and has the best plan for us. This does not mean that we will be spared from pain, suffering, and hardship. But it does mean that God will see us through to a glorious end.

There will be many ups and down in our Christian life.  One day may find us delighting in a mountaintop experience while the next finds us sloughing through the valley of tears.  Nevertheless when we pass that valley of difficulty, in the midst of sorrow, we may transform tragedies into triumphs and use the misfortune as a stepping stone to reach even greater heights.  We call it a “Fortune of Misfortune”.  The American poet James Russell Lowell said, “Mishaps are knives that either serve or cut us as we grasp by the blade or by the handle.”

The trials which God permits to arise in our lives are designed to bring out the best in us.  Never be despondent or discouraged.  No problem is too great for our Lord to solve.  As the pilgrimage progresses, instead of growing weaker we go from strength to strength.  The old man will perish but the inner man is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

The Christian life is a long journey.  Do not wait for great strength before starting out because immobility will weaken you further.  Do not wait for perfect vision before venturing forth but rather walk towards the light.  God will first empty us before the refilling takes place.

The Bible records accounts of how a servant of the Lord would enjoy a mountaintop experience but then the Lord would allow that same man to suffer a thorn in the flesh.  God blessed Jacob but afterwards he was left with a limp which remained with him for the rest of his life.  Spiritual victory and triumph often come through physical frailty and spiritual strength through physical weakness.

God’s unhurried purpose is to strengthen and mature us through pressure.  “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” (Psalm 4:1).  The Bible does not always give specific answers to the innumerable problems that arise in our life.  God’s Word does, however, provide general principles applicable to problems as they arise day by day.  It is for this reason that wisdom is needed.  Spiritual wisdom is the practical application of our Lord’s teaching to everyday situations.  

Do not wait for great strength before starting out because immobility will weaken you further.  Do not wait for perfect vision before venturing forth but rather walk towards the light.

In my own life, I at first found myself trying to hide my weakness and problem from others.  At length, I was forced to acknowledge it.  Finally, I came to grips with my changed life and was able to embrace it as a positive blessing in my life.   

Sometimes problems in life are removed when we have learned our lessons from them. As soon as the refiner sees his reflection in the metal, he turns off the heat.  “For He hath torn, and He will heal us, He hath smitten, and He will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1).   

At times, the trial in life may actually be a chastening act of love from the Lord so that we return to Him.  The Bible says, “I wound and I heal” (Deuteronomy 32:39).  Many of us fail to consider this possible aspect of God’s intervention in our lives.

A period of apprenticeship is necessary to become a good steward of God.  Trials bring about the compassion and the faithfulness to be a skilled minister of God.  Importantly, perseverance and steadfastness are developed as well.

Often our helplessness is an opportunity for the Lord to help us. God will not allow us to be tested beyond what we are able.  God has promised a way of escape. But the Lord is not in a hurry.  God does everything beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).  Therefore, be brave in distress and valiant in affliction and endure all difficulties for the sake of the elect and we shall also reign with Him.

C. M. John – Renew In Knowledge Core Team Member

C. M. John is an evangelist and elder at Kundara Brethren Assembly in Kerala, India. He is the author of several Christian books.