One of the most difficult challenges that can break people from their faith is hardship, particularly when it is prolonged. We go through life and circumstances arise that can make us waver, make us doubt, or make us wonder what we did wrong.
Many people go through what seems like an endless cycle of circumstances and events that can bring us down into the depths of depression. Those who believe in God can start to question why they deserve the pain or persecution that they’re suffering. It can lead to despondency, anger, fear, suicide, or even a falling away from belief in our Lord and Savior.
How can a loving God put His children through turmoils? Why must there be diseases? Why must loved ones die? Why do some people do horrible things? How can God allow these things to happen?
These questions are valid from a human perspective. We feel as if we would never allow suffering if we were in charge, so why would God allow it? These are all questions that can shake our faith, but the reality is the Bible not only warns us of these things, but tells us that through troubles we are tested, improved, and brought to a place where it all finally makes sense as long as we persevere to the end.
This existence is beyond our comprehension. It’s for this reason that we must remain steadfast and unwavering in our trust in our Lord. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways. He knows what’s best and will never let us fail as long as we stay true to Him through good days and bad.
There are many examples of suffering in the Bible. Many of them turn out wonderfully from our limited human perspectives. Others still ended horribly as we can perceive them; the Bible shows that the most difficult lives were often led by the most faithful. We’ll cover those shortly, but let’s first look at an example of the prior circumstance where hardship led to something wonderful.
Joseph had it rough
As Bible stories go, Joseph’s life as depicted in the Book of Genesis is one that demonstrates both extremes. He starts off with a very good life, then it takes a turn for the worse that leads to a series of misfortunes, only to become something wonderful by the end.
Joseph was the 11th of 12 sons of Jacob, also known as Israel. Because he was the first son of his beloved Rachel and likely for other reasons, he was the favorite. His father made him a coat of many colors, an honor that demonstrated his status in the family and wrought jealousy from his brothers.
He dreamed that he would be revered by his older brother and even by his parents. This dream was the last straw. When he went out to find his brothers, the following 15 or so years of his life were a series of terrible events:
- His brothers pushed him into a well with no water to keep him while they decided whether or not to kill him.
- He was sold into Egypt as a slave.
- His father was lied to by his brothers who brought a blood-drenched coat of many colors to make him mourn for Joseph continuously.
- As a slave, he was able to work his way into favor with the chief of the guard, only to be accused of attempted rape by his master’s wife.
- This accusation put him in jail.
- He helped another prisoner by interpreting the dream, asking only that he tell the Pharaoh about him once his dream came to pass. Three days later, the man he helped forgot to mention Joseph, so he continued in jail.
For no fault of his own, God put Joseph through over a decade of “bad days” that would drive most of us into deep sorrow. He was betrayed by his own family, sold into slavery, falsely accused and jailed, and forgotten by those he helped. However, his faith did not waver and his reward was great.
Not only was he finally released, but he was made ruler over all of Egypt. As a result, he was able to save his new country from famine and reunite with his whole family, saving them from the drought in the process. This made possible the tribe of Israel establishing roots in the fertile parts of Egypt where they flourished and grew from a family of 70 to a nation of multitudes.
God had a plan for Joseph and as far as we can read in the Bible, Joseph’s faith never wavered in spite of going through terrible times. It was through Joseph’s hardship that God was able to raise his people up to be the nation that would change the world forever through the line of David unto Yeshua HaMashiach, our Lord and Savior.
One brief, unfortunate note. I’ve heard the story of Joseph preached as if he was “rewarded” with power and fortune. This was not his reward. In fact, he was forced to work for a man who worshiped false gods, helped save the nation that would eventually turn his people into slaves, and was likely not allowed to worship as he saw fit, at least in the open. The life he was given was not his reward. It was the way God chose to save his people, which was the only true reward Joseph received.
The importance of perseverance
Following the Lord’s plan through hard times does not always lead to happy endings, at least not from our limited human perspectives. Many were chosen to suffer unto death, but those who do are most blessed in the real life that awaits. The prophets were hated and died terrible deaths. The Apostles were beaten, tortured, and also died terrible deaths for their faith. John the Baptist was beheaded. Even our Lord Yeshua was tortured and killed.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:10 (KJV)
This life is not intended to be loaded with non-stop blessings. In fact, those who persevere through suffering, afflictions, persecutions, and death while staying true to their faith in Yeshua to the end will be rewarded. The Apostles counted their suffering for Yeshua’s sake as blessings.
It’s for this reason that the mockeries made in modern society are so obtuse to me. The “prosperity gospel” is both obnoxious and absolutely wrong. Other worldviews that focus on concepts like “karma” can make people believe that what’s happening to them is a result of things they did wrong. We see in the Bible that often those who do the most right and stay the most faithful are the ones who have the most difficult lives. We see the opposite throughout the Bible as well.
As you look at your life and feel like God is not involved, always remember that everything He puts before us, both good and bad, is part of a plan that we are incapable of understanding. Don’t let suffering make you bitter or turn you away from the faith. No matter what happens, know that staying true will lead to an eternity of joy.