Life is hard. Jesus said it would be. (John 16:33) If it isn’t hard for you now, just wait, hardship is as certain as death. If you live life on life with people, then you know people who are going through hard times, which means you shoulder their burdens and hardships. One might even say that life can be hell on earth – at least for the Christian. For the unbelieving person life is both hard and the real hell is creeping ever closer, moment by moment. For the believer though, we fight the fight of faith in the present time knowing that there will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow and ultimately no more hardship. (Revelations 21:1-4)
But if hardship is certain, how do we endure it? How might God sustain us in the midst of great trials and tribulations? I think the answer is really quite simple; we bank on the promises of God found in His word. We hope in the certainty of the One who cannot fail and in doing so we trust in God’s goodness toward us.
As a pastor I often have the difficult privilege of helping shoulder the burdens of others, and it seems that lately I have been pointing to two passages in particular, over and over again.
For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively beyond our strength, so that we despaired unto life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10
God allows affliction so that we might trust God and not ourselves. This is loving since God is the single best person or thing for us in the Universe. God loves us so much that He is willing to let us be burdened excessively beyond our strength so that we might set our hope on the one who is King over death. There is a reason for our hardship as Christians and it is intended to help us.
I love this next passage and have found great solace in it through some of my own personal struggles. I find benefit in seeing how the Psalmist preaches to himself to hope in God for the certainty of God’s help. Don’t despair, preach to yourself to hope in God.
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. O my God, (Are you sensing the emotion?) my soul is in despair within me; Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God. Psalms 42:5-6, 11
Why is it that I keep coming to these passages? Because they have sustained me in my own season of difficulty and hardship and they help me give comfort to others.
What is in your repertoire of comfort and hope in times of trouble? Do you have verses you go to? Do you have verses that will help others?
Matt Chandler is about my age and recently was diagnosed with brain cancer that is potentially terminal. I was at a conference listening to him talk with CJ Mahaney about how God is sustaining him in this affliction of cancer. In the course of the dialogue, Mahaney said something that is very profound that we all need to think about. Concerning suffering he said, “If you live long enough, you will suffer. It stands to reason that we should develop a theology of suffering before we do.” Are you ready to suffer and help people through suffering? Hardship is coming – Depend on God by hoping in His promises.