Enduring Affliction, Trials, and Discipline
Life is difficult. Every day each of us must rise and work to carve out a life for ourselves. Though difficult, life is often good. This is especially true when we are surrounded by friends and family. These moments are to be savored because no matter what our position in life, each of us will sooner or later face great sorrow and adversity.
It could be the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or home, or some other disaster. In these times, it's easy to think we are being punished, or that for some reason the universe is conspiring against us. It's important to remember that not all hardship is punishment.
God often sends affliction and trials to purify and strengthen our faith for his glory: "In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 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" (Peter 1:6-7). At times God will test us with affliction, trials, and discipline so that our faith may be purified.
"In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil" (Job 1:1). Job was a righteous man, and the Lord allowed Satan to strike him with grief and affliction in order to demonstrate Job's great faith. He lost all his possessions, his entire family died, and his body was stricken with painful boils.
Despite this, Job did not give up his faith. His wife even tried to convince him to curse God but he would not. Rather, he declared: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised" (Job 1:21). The Holy Spirit indeed must have been with Job, where else could he have gotten the strength to endure Satan's assault? Once it became clear that Job's faith was stronger than any trial that Satan could muster, God declared that Job had passed the test. He commanded Satan to withdraw, restored Job's health, and rewarded him with greater riches and family than he had before.
God's righteousness is shown in his treatment of Job. Even though God allowed Satan to take everything from Job, He later rewarded Job greatly for his perseverance. Now, even today the story of Job is an example of how the Lord will never abandon his children. In this life, the Lord will give and the Lord will take away. If like Job we stay faithful no matter what, we will be greatly rewarded in the next life.
Christianity is centered around Jesus Christ, who was without sin. Jesus encountered many trials and temptations during his life, and any who have faith in him must also expect to endure trials and tribulations because of that faith. Jesus knew this, which is why he said to his disciples, "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. Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15.18-20).
God blesses those who persevere under trials; we know this because He has revealed it to us in his word: "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12).
The Lord never breaks his promises, and this should give us strength during the rough patches of this life. Still, sometimes it seems that the opposition is overwhelming. In these dark times we may feel like David when he wrote Psalm 13: 1-2: "How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?"
We should turn to the Lord for answers to these questions. God will never give us more trials and temptations than we can handle. Paul tells us this in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."
No one is a stranger to pain, grief, and suffering. The only difference between us is our attitude. The true Christian life follows the narrow path, which is not easy or carefree. The narrow path includes suffering, suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3). Therefore we know we are on the narrow path when we endure suffering, trials, and discipline.
Discipline and chastisement are never easy to accept, but are necessary in the narrow path (Hebrews 12:11). Often this is a barrier for those newly introduced to Christianity because no one likes to hear that they are sinful and need a savior. However, the ability to accept criticism and discipline is a mark of maturity, humility, and wisdom. Hebrews 12: 5-6 says, "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son."
Similarly, parents who truly love their children will discipline them. Without discipline, children become spoiled, indignant, and disrespectful. Unless corrected they will grow up to be spoiled, indignant and disrespectful adults, and then the cycle continues. It is the same for us with our heavenly father. When we are rebuked, it is a sign that God loves us.
We are not alone in the wilderness of this world. The Lord has given us reassurance and hope through His word. If you are suffering, lean on your brothers and sisters, and look to the Bible for encouragement from above:
The Lord will give, and he will also take away. (Job 1:21)
Trials come in order to test and preserve our faith. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Trials will come because Jesus was first tried before us. (John 15:18-20)
Those who endure trials for His sake are blessed. (James 1:12)
God won't allow us to suffer beyond our capability to bear. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
God disciplines his children because he loves them. (Hebrews 12:5-6)
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance." -James 1:2-3
More verses concerning trials, affliction, and discipline: