The testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing- James 1:3-4 NASB
God loves it when His people make the hard choice to persevere through the tough stuff of life.
Persevering through hardship, difficulty and injustice is incredibly unpleasant but it automatically causes good things happen in people. Enduring through the hurt of life builds emotional strength and develops grit in us. It causes us to lean on the Lord which causes us grow spiritually, makes us wiser and transforms us into the kind of people other people can learn from (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-5). It’s all good.
These things are also really hard, because none of the experiences a person might have to persevere through are easy or fun (that’s why it’s called perseverance, sigh). Some of the hard things a person might have to endure are what I call “life in a fallen world” kinds of things, painful but random events we all experience at some point in our lives. Things like cancer, the death of a spouse, friend or child, accidents or financial calamities. Unfortunately, most of us will also have deal with what I call “people are crappy” sorts of experiences like religious persecution, being cheated on, being lied to or about, or being treated indifferently or with disdain by people who should care about our feelings.
Hard things naturally (and understandably) cause people to doubt the goodness, faithfulness and sometimes even the very existence of God. It is true that pain and difficulty can drive us towards God but hurt and struggle can also drive us away as well. The effect suffering has on us depends entirely on how we choose to respond to the crummy circumstances of life (1st Peter 15-6). The good new is that there are actions we can take and attitudes we can adopt in the midst of our pain that will ensure pain, grief, trials, and difficulty make us better and more godly as opposed to bitter and more miserable.
Following are four of them:
Don’t blame God for the actions of people-
By far, the worst and most excruciating pain in life comes when we’re victimized or mistreated by people. The pain of personal betrayal is compounded a million times over if the person who harmed us is a Christian. Sadly, it’s impossible to avoid being hurt by people because people, even Christian people, are at their core sinful and broken. For whatever reason, most of us lay the blame squarely on God when people hurt us. This is a huge tactical error. It is critical we understand that humans have free will and can do whatever they choose to do with their free will. They can even be horrible, sinful, disgusting people if they want to. It doesn’t mean God approves of their actions or that there won’t be a price to be paid for their choices. It just means God will not force anyone to be nice, honest, or decent. That being said, the biggest problem with blaming God for the actions of people is that we deny ourselves access to the only one who can give us comfort, peace and the power to persevere through whatever horrible thing we are dealing with (Psalm 23:4, Psalm 86:17, 2nd Corinthians 1:3). Sigh.
Take the long view-
The apostle Paul lived most of his Christian life in what most of us would consider absolutely unacceptable conditions (2nd Corinthians 11:21-29). Literally, everyone hated him. The Jews hated him. The Romans hated him. The Greeks hated him. Sometimes even other Christians hated him (Galatians 4:16-18). Paul went hungry, spent time in prison, was beaten, stoned and betrayed by people who pretended to be his friends (2nd Timothy 4:14). Nevertheless, none of this injustice appears to have bothered him because he was able to view all of these situations as temporary problems that would be righted by God at some point in the future. He believed with all his heart his trials were actually preparing him for future ministry and making him more fit to spend eternity with God (2ndCorinthians 4:17, 1st Thessalonians 3:2-3). One “key” to persevering and enduring through pain is to make the choice to believe pain that is stewarded well will make us better, wiser, more insightful and more like Jesus.
Know that Jesus gets “it”-
He does. Whatever “it” is. Jesus gets it. I promise. Jesus experienced the same types of things we experience. He knows exactly what temptation, betrayal, loss, loneliness, hurt feelings and personal pain feels like (Hebrews 4:15). This makes Jesus the perfect one to run to anytime the heaviness of life becomes too much too bear (2ndCorinthians 1:5).
Don’t let yourself get hung up on the issue of fairness-
Getting hung up on what’s fair or unfair in this life will literally drive a Christian insane. Life, at least, in the present, is not fair. People “get away” with crappy stuff all the time. If we choose to focus on what kind of punishment people are getting right now, in this life we will lose our faith and our minds in that order. Instead of worrying about what’s fair and unfair, God wants us to believe in Him and trust that He will make things right and just in His good time. Anytime we’re hurt we have to remember the Bible is clear: NOTHING is in all of creation hidden from God and there is nothing that will not be publicly disclosed (Matthew 10:26, Hebrews 4:13). Sin that is unrepented of will be made public and punished in time. Period.
Ultimately, choosing to persevere through the pain of life means clinging to our faith and choosing to tenaciously love God no matter what goes wrong or who hurts us. Faithful endurance through hurt, loss or persecution is the hard route but God promises rich rewards for those who choose it.