Trials are inevitable. Every now and then we get a break, but in many ways life is a daily challenge. How does the Bible prescribe that we deal with these difficulties?
James 1:2-4 exhorts believers to consider it all joy when we go through various kinds of testing, because the testing serves a purpose. The testing of our faith produces endurance. Endurance serves a purpose: that we might be complete and “wholly called” lacking in nothing. The idea is that we are strengthened by difficulty so that we increase our stamina in dealing with difficulty. It is this shaping and maturing of character that should bring us joy, as we learn to stand firm through suffering, because, after all, the goal is that we should be conformed to the image of Christ.
But what about Christ? For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, looking down on (or not considering worthy) the shame of it all in light of the purpose to be accomplished (Heb 12:2). This is the kind of perseverance we are to show. His is the example to follow.
Peter encourages believers not to be surprised at the fiery ordeal among them, for these are purposed for testing (1 Pet 4:12). These challenges are not oddities of life, but rather they are the basic expectation of those who are committed to Him. As Christians suffer, we can be encouraged that there is no shame, but rather even in our suffering God is glorified (4:16).
Paul makes no apology for his warning that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12). He wanted Timothy to understand clearly the challenges in store. Yet years earlier Paul had written the encouraging words that “God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). God had not changed between the time Paul wrote his letters to the Romans and Timothy. Rather, God’s purpose for His people also remains the same: maturity, godliness, Christlikeness.
Centuries earlier Job could not see God’s purpose in allowing him to undergo such extreme distress. The book that bears his name is a record of Job’s anguish and questioning, and yet, Job remained faithful to God. He reminds his wife early on that all things are from God’s hand: “shall we accept good from God and not adversity?” (Job 2:10). Job is both corrected and commended by God at the conclusion of the book of Job, and his example is noted by James, who says, “ we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (Jam 5:11). Job endured the path set before him. What about you and I?
Believers, we have been warned. Life will have its difficulties. But those difficulties have purpose, and their outcome is ultimately good because of the One who oversees them.
Do we trust Him?