There is a bright tomorrow coming when Christ returns. On that day, we will live in the world we’ve always longed for—a place of perfect joy, a home where hard times will never come again. In the meantime, it is through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). As we await an imperishable inheritance, we will be, for a little while, grieved by various trials (1 Peter 1:6).
How should we think about the trials that are sure to come?
As Christians, we do not lose heart or shrink back. The grace by which we are saved prepares us for suffering by waging war on fear and unbelief, and by implanting an unshakable hope in our souls.
Penguins are made to endure the cold, anvils are made to endure the hammer, shingles are made to endure the rain, and Christians are made to endure trials. God, in regenerating you, making you a new creation in Christ, has done more to prepare you for suffering than the bravest of unbelievers could ever do for themselves.
The Lord has caused you to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus (1 Peter 1:3). He has placed deep within you a love for him as a compass for your soul, a love that turns you to the Lord in all your suffering. The peace of God will be a garrison to your heart and mind when anxieties threaten to overtake you (Philippians 4:6–7). The hope that you have in Christ will not fade, but will only grow in the hour of trial.
Great Truths for Future Trials
It is not the will of God for us to face suffering with stoicism or fatalism. But God’s Word arms us with the truths we need to face any hardships that come our way with confidence in Christ. What are the truths that prepare us for future sorrows?
God watches over us with fatherly care. Our comfort is in knowing that nothing will befall us apart from our Father’s good and sovereign purpose. The opening Question and Answer in The Heidelberg Catechism, regarding our only comfort in life and death, says that Christ “watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without “the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.”
Our suffering is always appointed, never accidental. John Calvin says that nothing is more useful than a knowledge of the doctrine of God’s providence. He says that the providence of God means that nothing happens but what God has knowingly and willingly decreed. This is good news for God’s children. “Sacred is the security which reclines on his providence.” You can experience this security today.
In the wisdom of God, the divine purposes now hidden will one day be revealed. Presently there are mysteries in the providence of God. But in the future, we will see the goal of our present experience. This infuses purpose into all our struggles and sorrows. The parts of our lives that presently seem meaningless will one day be revealed as full of meaning.
We are like Joseph in the book of Genesis. In the present, we are hated, mistreated, lonely, and falsely accused. But a day is coming, as it came for Joseph, when God’s good purposes will be revealed. We will confess with our mouths and see with eyes of faith that even where evil was done against us, God meant it all for our good (Genesis 50:20).
Charles Spurgeon says,
The day will come when you will be astonished that there was order in your life when you thought it all confusion. You will be astonished that there was love and you thought it unkindness, that there was gentleness and you thought it severity, that there was wisdom when you were wicked enough to impugn God’s righteousness.
Entrusting ourselves to the wisdom of God means we resolve that no matter what comes our way, we will declare to the Lord, “You are good and do good” (Psalm 119:68). We will entrust our lives to his good purposes for us and know that he intends this for good.
The Lord is your protector. Psalm 91 is a celebration of God’s protection in the midst of unknown future hardships. “Because you have made the Lord your “dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent” (91:9–10).
If I did not have the certainty of God’s protection all my days, I would panic over the unknown and despair in the darkness. But the Lord is my refuge and my fortress (91:2), my guardian and my deliverer. His faithfulness is a shield and a buckler (91:4).
What does God’s promised protection mean? It means that the Lord will protect you from divine wrath, he will sustain your faith, he will keep you from stumbling, he will guard your soul, he will keep you safe from the Evil One and thwart the purposes of all your enemies. When you call to him, he will answer you and rescue you. “I will be with him in trouble” (91:15).
Therefore, “you will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day” (91:5). We will tread on lions and trample the serpent under our feet (91:13). Christ is our mighty protector, and by his power we will look in triumph upon our enemies (Psalm 59:10).
God uses suffering to make us more like Christ. Isaiah 48:10 says, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.” God is refining us, maturing us, and making us more like Christ. In suffering he often works in us in ways we are unaware, growing us in ways we would never grow merely through our own effort.
Our afflictions produce eternal glory. The apostle Paul knew imprisonment and shipwrecks, beatings and stonings, hunger and thirst, weariness and sorrow, pain and suffering (2 Corinthians 11:23–28). Yet in all his afflictions he knew the truth of 2 Corinthians 4:17: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
The deeper our suffering, the greater our hope. Trials are God’s way of detaching our hearts from this world, deepening our longing for heaven. “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3–4).
The God of all comfort will comfort us in all our sorrows. Wherever suffering takes you, God’s comfort will find you. He is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4). Isaiah 51:3 says, “For the LORD comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.” The more our earthly comforts are lost, the deeper our comforts in the love of God.
Suffering equips us to minister God’s comfort to others. Second Corinthians 1:4 says that the reason God comforts us in affliction is “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
All things are working together for our good. Romans 8:28 is true, and just imagine the confidence we would have if we could live like it’s true. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Nothing can come your way except those things that will be to your ultimate benefit. You cannot remove yourself from the path of divine beneficence. We weary ourselves with anxiety, even while all things continue to conspire for our good. For those in Christ, the worst our enemies can do is to contribute unknowingly to the fulfillment of God’s good plans for us.
Trials magnify the faithfulness of God to us. The trials of life are those places where the faithfulness of God is loudly declared. Every danger and every sorrow magnifies the glory of God’s sustaining grace. There he proves his protection and demonstrates his power.
God will richly reward our steadfastness in suffering. In the book of James, God instructs us to count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds (1:2). This is because we know the greater steadfastness, maturity, and faith God is producing in us through trials (1:3–4), and the reward that comes to those who endure hardship by the power of God. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (1:12).
God uses suffering to teach us about himself. Many of us can testify, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (Psalm 119:67). Therefore, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).
The cross of Christ gives essential perspective in our suffering. What if the darkest hour of history could become the moment of greatest glory? What if the death of Christ and the apparent triumph of evil could become the praise of heaven and the victory of God? This is exactly what God has done.
The cross of Christ is the guarantee that God brings joy out of sorrow and life out of death. If God gave his Son for us, he is forever for us and his love has been proven once for all. John Stott observes, “We have to learn to climb the hill called Calvary, and from that vantage-ground survey all life’s tragedies. The cross does not solve the problem of suffering, but it supplies the essential perspective from which to look at it.”
If you knew the story God is writing, you wouldn’t despise this present chapter or fear what might happen in the next.
All of the suffering of God’s people will one day end. The gospel teaches us to look beyond a life of sorrow to an eternity of joy. Present groaning will soon give way to future glorification. The death and resurrection of Christ guarantee a future in which God himself will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no mourning, no crying, and no pain, for these belong to the former things that will pass away (Revelation 21:4).
What more can God say?! He has loved us, he is with us, he will strengthen and uphold us. In this life, sorrows will come. I must allow the good news of what Christ has done to prepare me for suffering. I will entrust myself now and forever to the goodness of God. I will weep and lament and long for the age to come.
And until that day, I will also rejoice in suffering, and kiss every wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.
Excerpted from A Bright Tomorrow: How to Face the Future Without Fear © 2018 by Jared Mellinger. Used by permission of New Growth Press. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.