Pulpit Reflections: Knowing God through difficult times
Shipwrecks, beating, imprisonment, failure and disappointment were all hallmarks of the apostle Paul’s life in ministry.
If it were me, I think I would want to quit. Paul, though, was able to find comfort from God in these troubles.
In fact, in the first few sentences of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians 1: 3-11), Paul gives several reasons why suffering and affliction can be good for us.
First, through suffering we can learn to comfort others in hard times (verse 4). Whoever we are, there will be bad times. We might lose a loved one or go through a hard transition like losing a job. Once we’ve had one of those experiences, we know better how to help someone else in the same situation.
Second, we will develop some endurance (verse 7). Small difficulties can help us build up for bigger problems that lie ahead. Just like an athlete trains before the game, our difficulties help us become stronger and better able to handle what lies ahead.
We also learn to rely on God (verse 9). When life is going well and all is easy, we can rely on our own strength. But when things are harder, we should learn to turn to God who can help us in those difficult times.
Fourth, each time God helps us through a difficult time, we gain hope or trust in him for the next time (verse 10). We learn to look to God for answers.
That should lead us to prayer (verse 11). In prayer we can bring our needs and the needs of others to God and ask him for a solution.
So the hard things of life have value. They teach how to help each other, and they can draw us closer to God.
We may not be thankful for those afflictions, but we can praise God for how he works through them.