This is part 1 of a 5 part series on enduring through suffering by building resilience.
Click here to read the article in its entirety.
Part 2 – Enduring Well: Identity in Christ
Part 3 – Enduring Well: True Perspective
Part 4 – Enduring Well: Faith
Part 5 – Enduring Well: Responsibility
Every Christian goes through sufferings. This is especially true for leaders. Leaders are targets:
…Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered… (Zech. 13:7)
The enemies of the Gospel target leaders because of the impact a leader’s breakdown will have on many people. Anticipating the significantly increased stresses of leadership, not a few people who have genuine callings to lead instead quietly embrace other life directions.
But suffering is not limited to leaders; we all are called by God to endure adversity. This is promised many times in the Bible:
…Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. (Acts 14:21-22)
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, (Phil. 1:29)
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Tim. 3:12)
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Pet. 4:12)
Moreover, this suffering is not only persecution for the sake of the Gospel. We will experience many different kinds of suffering in this life. Peter wrote that we will experience a diversity of adversity:
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Pet. 1:6)
“Trials” are tests of character – tests to see if we can stand up to the pressure and stress. In persecution, for example, the devil entices men to give up their faith for fear of suffering ridicule or physical harm. A temptation is a trial to see if you will choose holiness over sin. Suffering is a trial to see if you will serve God even when things go wrong (cf. Job). False doctrine is a test; it may offer us pride and elitism, or an easier way. Praise can even be a test of our humility (Prov. 27:21).
There are many kinds of trials. They can be related to physical health, marriage and family, relationships, finances, career, and more. Life is full of adversity!
But Peter goes on to say that these trials have a clear purpose:
These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Pet. 1:7)
True faith is tested by trials just as gold (far inferior to faith) is proved by fire. Gold is a precious metal but it can be mixed with impurities that lower its value and spoil its beauty. So it needs to be refined. In the intense heat of fire in a crucible, the impurities rise to the surface of the melted gold and are skimmed off by the goldsmith. In the same way, the heavenly Goldsmith heats the gold (our lives), brings the impurities to the surface and takes them away; and He does this repeatedly – until when He looks into the gold He sees impurities no longer but only His own image.
If gold that perishes must be tried by fire, how much more does our faith, which is being proved for eternity, need to be tried and purified by fire (cf. Dan. 11:35; 12:10; Rev. 3:18)? God is preparing us for eternity.
Thus, our suffering is for a purpose: to transform our lives and to bring God glory.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Cor. 4:7)
But the transformation is not automatic. Sufferings do not automatically change us. It’s how we respond that counts. It is our response to adversity that determines whether it will help us or hurt us. Sadly, probably more often than not, sufferings destroy people because of their bad responses.