In 2 Corinthians 11, we read the Apostle Paul’s winey chapter. Here he is listing all the trials and tribulations he has been through. He’s not really winey…but he his listing his hardships as a way of legitimizing his ministry to the Corinthian Church. He writes, “Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.” Needless to say, Paul has had some tough days. He did not have an easy road. He went through times where he was worn out and beat up.
We may not experience the same difficulties as Paul, but we all have moments where we feel exhausted and tired. We all have moments where we feel like giving up. We all have bad days…sometimes bad weeks. Here is the encouraging part: God can use hardship to refine us and make us holy.
Now, I’m not saying God causes bad things just to make us stronger. Often it is our own sin that brings hardship…or someone else’s for that matter. Nevertheless, no matter how bad the situation, God can redeem it. God can bring good out of any mess. Paul goes on to say in chapter 12 that he is content with his weaknesses and with his hardships because it is in those times that the power of Christ works best. It is when we are weak and struggling that we become strong because we rely solely on God’s all-sufficient grace.
The apostle James put it this way: “My dear brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” You notice James doesn’t say if trouble comes your way but whenever. The assumption is that we will have trouble. We live in a fallen world and hardships will occur. Then James tells us to see trouble as an opportunity for joy…which sounds a little crazy. However, he is not saying we should pretend to be happy when we are in pain…and he is not saying it is a sin to get upset. He is saying that we can face pain with a unique perspective because hardships have the ability to produce amazing fruit. They are opportunities to learn and grow in our faith in ways we never could have otherwise.
I don’t know about you, but it is during times of struggle and pain where my faith has grown the most. Those were the times when prayer, trust, and Christian friends took on a deeper meaning. Those are the times when you really rely on those things, and they’re not just an “add on” to life. James even believes that our hardships can make us mature and complete. The Greek word here means perfect, fully grown. James is referring to a spiritual wholeness that can only come through trusting God in a season of significant trial. He is telling us: “Let the difficulty and struggle transform you…don’t let it defeat you, but allow God to use it to make you holy.” Be encouraged today…because God can use all things (even bad things) for our good.