When life gets hard and our circumstances are overwhelming, we face the temptation to be discouraged or to give in. However, Scripture describes the Christian life as full of hardships. Christ’s followers knew and taught “…that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Our experiences are used by God to develop us and grow us in fruitfulness. This intro study is designed to provide a framework for further study of this broad and complex topic.
We experience hardship and suffering for a number of different reasons, each calling for a unique response. Four broad reasons are:
- Reaping what we have sown. If we rob a bank, we reap jail. If we are sexually immoral, we reap STD’s, unplanned pregnancy, divorce, broken trust, and many other consequences.
- Chastisement. God chastises those He loves. Example: David succumbed to temptation with Bathsheba and was severely chastised, even though he was God’s chosen and a man after God’s own heart. Through the prophet Nathan, God’s chastisement was severe but led to repentance and a radically changed life.
- Spiritual warfare. The enemy and his agents attack God’s people. Examples include Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and Nehemiah’s challenges while building the wall.
- We live in a fallen world that bears the marks of sin’s corrupting influence. Car accidents happen; the physical body breaks down; kids stray; people betray others; wars and their widespread consequences occur.
In each of these, or a combination of two or more, God is present with His grace and mercy for the person who calls upon Him in trials and for His own divine and eternal purposes.
We are encouraged to endure these hardships as we come to share in Christ’s holiness and righteousness. Paul reported that the experience of suffering and hardship was an invaluable means of knowing Christ more deeply. “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death” (Philippians 3:10). Hardships will occur; how we endure, overcome, and grow through them is the question before a disciple of Christ. We are comforted that although we endure suffering and even God’s chastisement and discipline, we have the promise that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Study the following biblical references and consider how they address the questions listed below. If using this outline with a small group, consider assigning different Scriptures to different individuals and relating them to one or more of the questions. Then scroll down the page to review our recommended resources for the topic of Enduring in Hardships and consider how the various articles or podcasts provide further insights relating to this topic. Also consider other resources you have been exposed to and might recommend to others. We value your feedback.
Romans 5:1-5; Colossians 3:12-17; 2 Timothy 2:1-3; Hebrews 5:7–10; Hebrews 10:18; Hebrews 12:4-11; James 1:2-4
- What should be our outlook on the hardships that we encounter in our lives?
- Recount a time of hardship that resulted in a positive effect.
- How might we discern the source of the suffering and/or hardship? How might our response differ depending on the source?
- The actions of others (relatives, peers, friends, a boss) sometimes cause negative circumstances for us, oftentimes unintentionally. What should be our response?
- What should we do when hurt by the intentional words of others?
- How might we help others who are enduring hardships?