Why is it that Christians tend to pretend they don’t experience hardships? Why do you think they keep their private lives of struggle and disappointments private? I ask this because I was recently at a Christian gathering of the laity where the leader shared a very personal story of tragedy and triumph. He held back tears of how his wife gave birth to their beautiful child that hours later died in their arms for no apparent reason. They decided to give their child’s body parts to other children in order for them to live healthy lives. He said this whole devastating experience brought he and his wife much closer to God and increased their faith. He then asked others in the room to share their personal stories of challenges that have brought them closer to God. To both of our dismay, the room fell silent. Not one person had anything to share. As a matter of fact, the awkward silence left others to look around at each other as though they all lead perfect lives. Their expressions where saying, not me!!!
It reminded me of a time when I had begun an active life of service to the church and was hit by one annoying obstacle and hardship after another. I have written about this experience before and some of you may remember when an elder women of the church who was very well respected came to me saying, I must be doing something wrong. She continued, that if I weren’t doing something wrong I would be blessed like she was with no obstacles or hardships. Everything would be smooth sailing. I left her feeling doubt about my service to the Lord and my faith. I checked and double checked my motives, I sought counsel from priests and spiritual advisers and then I prayed and sought answers from God and do you know what I found?
I found that the more you do things right the more obstacles and hardships you endure and these hardships and obstacles are blessings. That’s right, BLESSINGS!!! I know it is hard to believe, but it is a gift from God to experience the same sufferings as Christ. Think about it. Christ and Mary both had hardship from the day Jesus was conceived to the day he was crucified. People talked behind their backs, they were jealous, His best friend betrayed Him, people doubted Him, thought He was from the devil, a troublemaker, defiant of the laws, a sham and a liar. This is despite all the miraculous, beautiful things that He accomplished for others. Why in the world would we ever think that being baptised in Christ we would not undergo in our own way the same sort of sufferings? We experience both the resurrection and the crucifixion.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. Peter 1:5
Yes, everyone has hardships, even priests and wealthy, high powered people.
Suffering for Being a Christian
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. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 1 Peter 4:12-14
The harm we do as Christians is pretending that we don’t suffer hardships, that we don’t sin because we have had a conversion; we need conversion every day of our lives. If we are not honest about our sufferings we falsely lead others who are beginning the spiritual journey that they are not measuring up to par. That they stand alone, isolated and different from the rest of us. This hurts the budding Christian soul.
Below are five suggestions on how to triumph hardship:
- Look for the significance in your suffering. Jesus has gifted you with the opportunity to share in His experience why? what does He want to unite with you about? This is a gift for spiritual growth and increased faith.
- How can your suffering help someone else? In my leader friends case, he gave life to other children. What might God be asking you to do by stepping out of your own pain to relieve others?
- Keep your focus on the mission do not allow yourself to be distracted from what is happening in the pain in the present moment. Feel it, embrace it, learn from it then let it go. This is how you free yourself from getting stuck where you are by allowing God’s will to take over and not your own. It’s when we try to control our circumstances that we prolong them.
- Be honest about what is happening by sharing your story. It is in this humility that we help encourage others to face and overcome their own hurdles of hardships.
- Pray for the heavenly host of angels and saints to walk with you and help you endure. I can’t stress enough how powerful prayer is. I used to give this analogy to the teens about prayer:
Picture your guardian angel standing behind you and as you avoid prayer you step farther and farther away from your angel, and when you pray you step closer and closer to your angel until their wings and arms surround you with protection. Your prayer gives them permission by your free will to touch you and intercede to God and others guardians angels on your behalf.
I am not suggesting that we only talk about hardships and we become negative. I am suggesting that we not hold back from sharing our truths, because it isn’t until we are honest about our hardships that we become the spark that ignites anothers faith.