The key to finding true contentment, peace, and joy amidst hardship is seeking God and surrendering to His will.
Luther did not seek out this suffering, but he considered obedience to Christ more important than avoiding it. He believed that his present sufferings were not worth comparing with the glory God would bestow on him through Christ. Do we Christians believe the same?
Scripture is clear that if we would follow Christ, we must take up our cross (see Luke 9:23-26). For some this may mean losing family or home, career or reputation, or even life itself. But today and every day, there is a universal suffering that every Christian must face: We all must die to self in every trial and circumstance of life (see Mark 8:34-38; John 12:24-26; Luke 14:25-33).
Though secular culture exalts self-fulfillment as the ultimate goal of life, Christians know true freedom is found in submission to God and trusting His will whatever trials we face. The promise of suffering would be a dismal promise if our God were not infinitely glorious—perfectly powerful, sovereign, compassionate, wise, merciful, gracious, faithful, and loving. But indeed, we serve the one, true God, the matchless Creator. We can always trust Him to use our pain for His glory and our good.
HE DOES NOT LEAVE US AS ORPHANS
As Christians we never have to suffer alone or in vain. God gave us His Spirit to live in us, acting as comforter and helper through trials (see John 14:15-20). He actively heals and guides us through suffering, reminding us that we are "persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:9). He acts as a seal, bearing witness that we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (see Romans 8:16-17). He is the "Spirit of wisdom and revelation," who opens our eyes to the Truth of Scripture so that we can know the hope to which we have been called (see Ephesians 1:15-23).
AS GOD'S CHILDREN, WE CAN FIND HOPE IN SUFFERING, KNOWING THAT:
God wants us not only to withstand suffering, but to suffer well. When men and women of faith weather unimaginable hardship—life threatening illnesses, the death of a spouse or child, imprisonment, abandonment, torture—with joy, they prove their hope lies in a future glory with Christ. This joy isn't about forced smiles or appearing put together through pain. Joy can be, and often is, tear-stained, exhausted, and battle-scarred. Christians who endure suffering well trade the fragility of the seen with the sure hope of the unseen—the promise of the glory of God. Remember, our faithful God can use the bleakest moments in our lives to create the sweetest times of intimacy with Him.
By building wells full of Scripture and powerful prayers, like the Psalms, from which we can drink, we prepare for the spiritual valleys and plateaus that are sure to come. We don't have to seek them out or take joy in the pain. Even Jesus asked if the greatest suffering He endured—separation from the Father—could be taken from Him (see Luke 22:41-42). Rather, like Christ, we look to the joy set before us: God the Father. The key to finding true contentment, peace, and joy amidst hardship is seeking God and surrendering to His will. He alone is good, supplying our every need in every season according to His perfect knowledge and eternal love.
Suffering will come. But through the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, we can rise above our temporary circumstances, however painful they may be. For, we joyfully anticipate a new heaven and earth, where there will be no more darkness or pain—where we will forever revel in the city lit eternally by the glory of God.
TESTIMONY HIGHLIGHT: HIEN PHAM'S STORY
In the 1970s, Hien served as a translator for the American forces and missionaries. Shortly after the Vietnam War, he was imprisoned for helping Americans and was subjected to a deluge of Communist propaganda to indoctrinate him. Deprived of the Word and enduring deep suffering, Hien started to doubt his faith and stopped praying.
The next morning, Hien's chore was to clean the filthy prison latrines. Glancing at a tin can overflowing with excrement-covered paper, Hien noticed a piece of paper covered in English. He quickly cleaned the paper off and saved it to read later that night in the safety of darkness. Once his cellmates were sleeping, with trembling hands, he pulled out the paper. It read, "Romans Chapter 8." Knowing no better passage to empower him in his pain, Hien wept and asked for forgiveness, praying, "Lord, You didn't allow me to get away from Your arm's reach for even 24 hours."
He requested to clean the toilets regularly, gathering and wiping off pages from Romans that a Communist commander was using as toilet paper. What his captors' meant as a humiliating gesture, God used as spiritual nourishment to sustain Hien throughout his imprisonment.
Eventually through another providential circumstance, Hien was released from prison. He and 53 others prepared to flee Vietnam by boat, but four Vietcong heard of their plan. They came and questioned Hien about their scheme, and Hien denied it. Filled with remorse, Hien promised God that if they returned, he would confess the truth. Just before they were to set sail, the Vietcong returned. When Hien confessed, they responded in hushed tones, "Can we come with you?"
On the journey, a violent storm arose that would have killed all 58 passengers if not for the skilled sailing ability of the four Vietcong. They all arrived safely in Thailand.