AREnduring in HopeHow do you cope when you are feeling downhearted, or even in despair? Learn how figures in the bible endured tribulation.How did biblical figures endure trials and tribulations? The secret to endurance is to fix our eyes on Jesus when we are downhearted, and to have trust, humility, and perseverance during hardship. Eventually, we can taste the benefits of suffering and ultimately He will lead us to salvation.
It is easy to
think that the saintly characters in the Bible never experienced any
problems in their lives. In our minds, we picture them as super-humans
living a constant, high level of spirituality, with unceasing joy and
strong hope in God. With these assumptions, we may admire or even envy
them. But our perception couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality,
these biblical figures were often completely downhearted, and God’s will
often appeared very distant to them.
long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me? (Ps 13:1-2)
prayer sound familiar to the ones we utter when we feel that we have no
one and nowhere to turn to? In fact, these words uttered by David paint a
picture of deep despair and wretchedness beyond anything most of us will
not find its way only to the less successful. It comes to all. Even the
great apostle Paul was no exception; outstanding and spiritual as he was
in divine work and character, Paul was as human as we are. "For we do
not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in
Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we
despaired even of life" (2 Cor 1:8). Paul was downcast probably
because of the riot and the chronic opposition he encountered in Ephesus (Acts
19:23-41). This was but one of the many life-threatening situations
that he encountered during his missionary journeys.
Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus Christ
Even so, Paul shared
with the Christians of Corinth his secret of how his faith remained firm
in times of unbearable distress and trials: Paul knew that God was in
control of all circumstances. Throughout his life, Paul realized that
there was nothing he could do to help himself. In light of his knowledge
of Jesus Christ and His will, Paul trusted in God and praised Him at all
times (2 Cor 1:3-7). Likewise, the apostle Peter wrote to the believers in
the midst of trials, praising God for the future blessings and a living
hope that were in store for those who endured (1 Pet 1:3-9).
are many who say,
"Who will show us any good?"
Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us.
You have put gladness in my heart,
More than in the season that their grain and wine increased.
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Ps 4:6-8)
proclaims that God, and nothing else, is our true protection in time of
danger. Paul also relied on the Lord Jesus through every trial, knowing
that He was his only hope (1 Tim 1:1). Christ alone gave him the strength
he required to continue his ministry, and this strength enabled him to
face trials rather than avoid them. With God’s word and His divine
presence in his life, Paul could face the most adverse situation in which
he found himself. "We are hard pressed on every side, yet not
crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not
forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Cor 4:8-9).
become discouraged because of difficulties, sufferings, or tribulations in
life, our natural reaction is to focus on these external circumstances.
Instead, we should look upon our Lord Jesus and try to understand what God
wants us to learn and do during these troubling times.
Trust, Humility, and Perseverance
We can prepare
ourselves to face all kinds of difficulties by keeping in mind that every
trial is beneficial to those who love God (Rom 8:28). Part of trusting in
God is knowing that He will never let us suffer beyond what we can endure (1 Cor
10:13). Paul once beseeched the Lord three times to remove "a
thorn in his flesh," but Christ answered him, "My grace is
sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2
Cor 12:7-9). In effect, the Lord was telling Paul that he would receive no
more of His grace, nor did he need more. Christ’s grace is sufficient in
that it does not banish weakness, but it allows us to overcome it if we
are willing to rely on His power completely.
To bear our trials in
life, we must also show humility before God and admit to Him that we are
weak and need His help. Our experiences in life or work for God should not
prevent us from humbling ourselves before Him. In Paul’s experience, he
knew that when he felt weak, he became strong (2 Cor 12:10). It is
precisely when we feel weak that God endues His power on us. Conversely,
if we think that we are invincible or standing on firm ground, we are in
danger of failing miserably (1 Cor 10:12).
During times of
difficulty, we may wonder when God will deliver us. We need to remember
that God will deliver us in His own time, and it may not be immediately.
For example, the Jews were held in captivity for seventy years, and David
was pursued by Saul for the main part of his early life.
the methodology that God deploys may sometimes surprise us. Take the
example of Stephen in Acts 7. As Stephen was being stoned to death, God
revealed Himself to him and freed him from the excruciating suffering that
the unbelieving Jews were inflicting upon him (Acts 7:54-60).
We do not
know when God will deliver us from our tribulations, but what we do know
is that His deliverance is certain and will be in response to our faith
and prayers, in His own time and in His own way. "I sought the Lord,
and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears" (Ps 34:4).
Benefits of Suffering
The most meaningful
and valuable service that we can give to our Lord Jesus is to glorify Him
in every aspect of our lives, whether we are living in joy or in
suffering. If we are able to pass through suffering in a God-fearing
manner, His name will be glorified. The Lord Jesus Christ submitted to
God’s will to accomplish salvation for mankind, glorifying God (Jn
17:4-5, 22). Similarly, Paul endured every suffering that he encountered.
very much to accomplish His purpose through us in times of suffering, but
seldom do we allow our trials to be of benefit to ourselves or to others.
Instead, we expect others to show consideration and empathy when we are
suffering. When we study Paul’s moments of difficulties, however, we
discover that he channeled his effort, time, and energy into consoling
others. When he was behind bars, he did not fail to pray and show concern
for the Christians in Ephesus (Eph 3:1, 14). By encouraging others when we
are experiencing our lows, we learn to endure in faith patiently. When we
tend to the needs of others at those times when we most need God
ourselves, we reveal the genuine love of God.
is beneficial because it purifies us from sin and molds our character into
what is needed for His work. "Therefore since Christ suffered for us
in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has
suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live
the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will
of God" (1 Pet 4:1-2). By drawing near to the Lord day by day, we
faithfully await His salvation when He comes again.
to endure is a mark of Christian maturity as well as a living hope in
Christ. As we endure suffering, we must fix our gaze upon our Lord Jesus
and try to understand His purpose for us. Since God is in control of all
circumstances, we should put our trust in Him. This means submitting
ourselves humbly under His mighty hand, believing that God uses all
circumstances for the edification of those who love Him, and understanding
that He may use suffering to accomplish His will. Let us be prepared to
allow Him to shape us, enabling us to work mightily for His name, and
ultimately to lead us to salvation.