What encouragement can you offer Christians facing hardship and suffering?

2 Min Read

I think we have the false notion that life should be easy and that we should just be blessed in life. The reality is that being a Christian is probably more in the crucible of suffering than not. But here is the thing, and none of us like this, but it’s actually a natural law: things that are easy aren’t always worthwhile. Things that are hard and demanding of us and take work tend to be the things that are worthwhile. If that’s true naturally, how much more spiritually?

Here is what suffering, financial challenge, turmoil, and uncertainty do: they shake loose the independence that we are prone to and the ingratitude that sadly wells up within us sometimes. Suffering, adversity, and hardship bring dependence.

Let’s go to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12, where he talks about the thorn in the flesh. He is praying. If anybody knows how to pray, it’s the Apostle Paul—but he is praying to no avail. Then all of a sudden comes the revelation: “My grace is”—notice the beauty of it being in the present tense. It’s an active verb. Salvation is not God saying: “My grace was; My grace has saved you, and now you are on your own. You run your marathon.” No, it is, “My grace is sufficient for you.” And then, Paul takes us a level deeper: “In your weakness, My strength is perfected.”

None of us want suffering, and we certainly don’t want it for the people we love. That’s probably the harder question. We don’t want suffering for the people we love, especially suffering we can’t fix. But in God’s wisdom, He uses that to teach us, to make us dependent on His grace, to make us a grateful people, to show us the depths of His grace, His power, His mercy, His kindness, and His goodness. Apart from suffering, those are things we probably would not have seen or appreciated.

What’s more, suffering drives us to serve. It causes us to see other people in need and other people who are hurting. When we are on easy street, we are so caught up in ourselves and enjoying life that we don’t have time. I have seen people who have had hard lives of suffering, and they love to serve. They want to give themselves away to other people. I have seen a kindness and a depth of mercy in them that puts me to shame.

So, none of us want suffering, and we certainly don’t want it for the people that we love, but it is wonderful how God uses it and will use it. Ultimately, we know that God is good to His children. He loves us as the all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good heavenly Father. We are safe in His hands. If we latch onto that, we can be carried through this world. We can walk through the fire. We can survive the crucible.

This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Stephen Nichols and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.