by Ida Ploug Pahus
One thing I have discovered is how easy it is to think that once we become Christians and have God by our side, everything will be pure happiness and God will remove the stones lying on our paths. However, that’s not what the Bible promises us.
The Bible promises there WILL be hardships, there WILL be pain and your faith comes with a price just as it did for Jesus—it cost Him EVERYTHING. The good news? You will not go through it alone. God will be there with you. And one day when we reach the new heavens and new earth, we will reach the perfect place where there will be no tears and no suffering, if only we stay faithful in our current struggles and hardships (Revelation 21:4).
It’s so natural for us to try to avoid suffering, but often suffering can be used by God for the sake of eternal joy. So who are we to even call it suffering? Where is our perspective—is it on what causes momentary sad emotion, or on the joy it can bring and even glory it can bring to God?
“I will be uncomfortable with trials only if I am still making life about myself. The only reason circumstances challenge my faith is that I think my life is about my own comfort and happiness.” —from Love Like a Crucifix by J. Peter Koenen
Let’s take a look at Moses and Pharaoh in the book of Exodus. The Israelites have been in slavery in Egypt for a long time, and God calls Moses to go to Pharaoh and speak up for his people and tell Pharaoh to let the people go. Over and over again Pharaoh refuses to do it, and God performs miracle after miracle to show Pharaoh that his power is nothing compared to God’s, and even though Pharaoh is the ruler, he is not the greatest. But the important thing to notice in this story are the many times the Bible says that “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” Why did he do that? To make Himself known among all people and for His own glory. He used the Israelites’ struggles and Pharaoh’s hardened heart to make himself known. If Pharaoh had just let them go, Moses wouldn’t have been used so mightily in the hands of God—this man who said of himself that he was unable to speak for God. The 10 plagues wouldn’t have taken place to show everyone that He is God. Exodus 9:16 says of Pharaoh: “However, I have let you live for this purpose: to show you my power and to make my name known on the whole earth.”
And what about the story of Job, the man that God allowed Satan to take everything away from because he knew Job wouldn’t curse Him? Job truly suffered a great deal, but in the end, he says, “I have heard reports about you, but now my eyes have seen you.” The thing that made Job see God was through the allowed suffering. If he hadn’t suffered, He never would have seen God.
Could it be that suffering ceases to be suffering when it finds meaning? Could it be that our happiness has never been the goal, but knowing that God is the goal?
So expect trials to come. Prepare for them by putting on the armor of God that Ephesians 6 talks about. Your faith will cost you something. It sure has for me. In school it meant classes I had to leave, discussions I had to take and grades I had to give up, because following God and living with integrity means more to me than anything else this world can offer.
So are you ready? Suffering will come, but the joy of following Jesus will be much greater!
Here are some scriptures that show suffering being deeply connected with joy:
- “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
- “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
- “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
- “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
- “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2 Timothy 3:12)
As the Bible says, we might experience battles, but no, they will not have the final word; God has already overcome it. The victory is already His. And when we know the victory is God’s, the battle cannot have the same power over us.