Following the 2008 recession, my father was laid off three times in two years due to organizational downsizing. Without notice, our circumstances changed dramatically.
The comfortable life we had embraced, including a spacious house and beautiful commute along mountains and rivers, was gone. We moved to a more populated, lower income neighborhood, where police officers regularly made arrests for illegal drug use and possession. A few weeks after our arrival, the SWAT team was brought in to extract a dangerous father, who had barricaded his family in their home down the street. These were desperate conditions we had never encountered, things we had never seen.
Our income was insignificant. Our neglected home was tiny. My dad was discouraged. My mom felt guilty. My siblings were confused. I fluctuated between anxiety and frustration. It seemed as though the Lord had taken everything away from us, for no conclusive reason.
And just when our situation seemed completely arbitrary, God prompted several mentors to encourage me. Pastors, educators and friends who were mature in faith started communicating the relevant truth of Scripture. They helped me understand key passages of hope, teaching the value of suffering in every degree.
My perspective was permanently altered when a church leader revealed his own history of financial hardship, and how it facilitated service and discipleship in ways that would have been impossible otherwise. He explained the honor and duty of faithfully following Jesus Christ in the most difficult circumstances—a principle the Lord reaffirms in Romans 5:3-4: “We also boast of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance brings God's approval, and his approval creates hope” (GNTD).
I, who had been called to serve others just a few years prior, began to comprehend God’s purpose for pain and confusion in my life. Through the clarity of God’s Word and transparency of this pastor, I saw the strength, integrity and faith that had been fostered in our season of loss and want. Now, as a commissioned Missionary Associate with Assemblies of God World Missions, I retrospectively thank God for lessons learned in trust and resiliency so early in life.
The suffering we endure today equips us for tomorrow’s ministry. As we faithfully follow and trust in the Lord, we develop a spirit of endurance. That endurance produces godly character. With that character we can respond to every circumstance with contentment, gratitude and joy.
If you find yourself in the midst of seemingly insurmountable circumstances today, turn to God’s Word for hope. These verses will get you started:
- James 1:2-4 (GNTD)
My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
- 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (GNTD)
We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies.
- 1 Peter 1:6-7 (GNTD)
Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer. Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you will receive praise and glory and honor on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed.
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