Sometimes it’s really hard to understand what God has in mind when we face tough times. The Bible tells the story of a man named Job who God allowed to lose everything. In the same book, God says that His ways are beyond our understanding. God showed me this verse recently when I was going through something. My question was “Why?” and His response was Job 37:5:
“He does great things beyond our understanding”. I realized my question should not be “Why?” but rather “What can I do through You and Your great acts?”
God showing His greatness through suffering and perseverance is all over the Bible. And the greatest story of all, the story of Jesus, is about the greatest plan God had before our existence. A plan that would involve the greatest sacrifice, where Jesus would ask the question “Why?” But it’s a question that we will never have to ask. Jesus asked why God had forsaken Him as Jesus felt the weight of all the sin the world had ever committed, were committing, and would commit. Jesus was forsaken so that we would not have to be: the Bible promises in Hebrews 13:5 that we will never have to experience this forsakenness or abandonment. Our suffering, then, is experienced with God holding our hand, or carrying us through, or embracing us: we never have to go through these great things beyond our understanding alone.
In fact, the Bible talks about persecution for Jesus’ sake many times. It isn’t just the traditional thought of persecution. It could be laying down our own dreams and desires, letting go of relationships, saying goodbye to fortune and career success, and perhaps even choosing Jesus over one’s family. Here are some verses that speak to persecution and suffering:
It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
“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. 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 Cor. 12:9 – 10).
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:18-20).
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well- developed, not deficient in any way” (James 1:2-4)
“Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:7).
But my favorite of all the verses is found in Matthew 5 (The Message):
“You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.
Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”
Maybe your suffering is financial strain, fear of the unknown, rejection from friends and family, or even being called to a life that you know will be full of sacrifice. The easiest question to ask is “Why?” but it will hold the smallest reward. God promises great things through us, and sometimes the road to get there is paved with suffering and persecution. Do not be discouraged. Consider yourself blessed, even, for when we face trials like Jesus did, we become more like Him. When we begin to act like Jesus, we become more like Him. The more we worship Him, even during suffering, we become more like the One we worship. Our lives won’t be significant by default. I want mine to be significant because of the great things God does through me, knowing they will come at a great cost, comforted by the fact that I’ll never go through it alone. Hold on to the rope, because as long as He’s holding the other end, greatness for His name’s sake is ahead.