Finding Hope in Times of Suffering
The Apostle Paul wrote about 25% of the new testament and traveled to countries near and far to proclaim the gospel. Paul was a faithful warrior for Christ, yet he was no stranger to suffering. He experienced persecution and trials of many kinds. He was imprisoned, tortured, went days without food and water, and had several near-death experiences. Oh, and did I forget to mention that this was ALL after he chose to follow Christ. Some of us have been led to believe that our life would be more or less trouble-free after we decided to follow Christ, but unfortunately, that is a far cry from the truth. Discipleship will cost, and Paul serves as a perfect example of this. But in the midst of all that he went through, he still had hope. This hope is what makes us different as believers. Paul wrote,
“But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope.” (Romans 5 NIV).
This hope is not based on what we can do, and it is definitely not based on our circumstances, but it is rooted in a perfect, resurrected Christ. A savior who will help us persevere through the most challenging times in our lives. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul described one of his challenges as a thorn in the flesh.
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV
I’m incredibly grateful that Paul was so real about his struggles. He didn’t pretend to like his situation. He made a desperate plea to God to change his circumstances and was still met with a resounding No. Like Paul, we’ve all had moments where we wrestled with God about a situation we wanted Him to change. Sometimes God responded to our prayers in a way that is even better than we could imagine. Yes, God is still in the blessing business. But then there are moments where we don’t seem to get an answer at all, or our prayer is met with a disappointing no. Whenever that happens, it can be extremely disheartening, especially because we don’t understand why God is permitting us to suffer in this way. Herwing Arts once wrote “This is just what is so painful in all suffering: at first sight, it looks senseless.” 
It’s human nature to want to make sense of a situation, but I’ve learned that we don’t always get the answers to our questions. But if we find it in our heart to believe that God’s no is just as merciful as his yes, our hope and faith will see us through that painful situation even when it doesn’t make sense.
Paul was able to praise God through his trials because his focus didn’t remain on his weakness or the hardships before him, but he anchored his hope in a perfect Savior who gave him the strength to persevere through the trial. Remember, God did not promise us a life free of suffering, but He did promise us that He would always be with us (John 14:16-17). And that’s something we can place all our hope and trust in.
If you are looking for a Christian Counselor to walk with you through a difficult time, we would love to support you. Learn more about our healing community by visiting https://www.faithonthejourney.org/counseling
 Herwing Arts. God, the Christian, and Human Suffering. Liturgical Pr (April 1, 1993), p.4.