“I’ve told you this so that my peace will be with you. In the world you’ll have trouble. But cheer up! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 (GW)
The Christian life is not a trouble-free life; it’s a troubled-free life. In this life we will have trouble (Jesus told us so) but we don’t have to allow the troubles in this life to trouble us. We can be full of cheer and maintain a victor’s attitude because in Christ we are victorious and more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). When we face a tragedy it helps to put it into perspective (see things in light of eternity), and that will minimize the impact on us. Many of the things people grieve over will be completely forgotten in a year and all grief will be completely forgotten in eternity as we experience the comfort of Jesus.
“We have sufferings now, but these are nothing compared to the great glory that will be given to us.”
Romans 8:18 ERV
The apostle Paul suffered more in his life than any of us probably ever will. What he suffered physically and emotionally most of us would not even be able to imagine.
“24 Five times the Jews have given me their punishment of 39 lashes with a whip. 25 Three different times I was beaten with rods. One time I was almost killed with rocks. Three times I was in ships that were wrecked, and one of those times I spent the night and the next day in the sea. 26 In my constant traveling I have been in danger from rivers, from thieves, from my own people, and from people who are not Jews. I have been in danger in cities, in places where no one lives, and on the sea. And I have been in danger from people who pretend to be believers but are not.
27 I have done hard and tiring work, and many times I did not sleep. I have been hungry and thirsty. Many times I have been without food. I have been cold and without clothes. 28 And there are many other problems. One of these is the care I have for all the churches. I worry about each group of believers every day.”
2 Corinthians 11:24-28 (ERV)
The interesting thing is that Paul didn’t experience any of this while he was an unbeliever and while he was persecuting the church; only when he became a believer and started living for Jesus did things start getting intense. The truth is that the devil would love to stop us from sharing this good news about Jesus with others, and so he attacks us. Many believers and ministers give up because they can’t endure even a little of what Paul had to endure. Paul knew that eternity was waiting for him and so he was willing to endure suffering now to help impact others’ eternity. Paul didn’t magnify his problems by focusing on them; instead he focused on God and the mission he had from God. He chose to actively dis-esteem and devalue his problems.
“We have small troubles for a while now, but these troubles are helping us gain an eternal glory. That eternal glory is much greater than our troubles.”
2 Corinthians 4:17 (ERV)
I like how the Living Bible puts it: “These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long.” Paul had the right perspective and that enabled him to not only get through and survive, but to thrive and make a massive impact in the world for Jesus. Paul saw his difficulties and suffering as “light afflictions” – he didn’t magnify them and talk about how bad things were. He saw that the challenges that he faced were only temporary and wouldn’t last forever.