Certainly, there are many commonalities shared by human beings. Experiencing hardships in life is something that everyone faces. At times these trials are brought about by our decisions and actions. At other times they are brought about by no fault of our own. But the manner in which people deal with these times of tribulation is often vastly different.
For the non-Christian, the struggles they experience in life can be mentally debilitating, leaving them grasping at anything around them to somehow feel as though they are not going to sink. Many believe that this life is all there is, that there is nothing more than the here and now. With that outlook, why would you want to go on living and suffering through such a heartbreaking and demoralizing existence? Sadly, many choose to escape the hardships of this life by taking their own.
But the New Testament teaches us an important truth concerning the challenges we face. Bud Robinson spoke of God's refining fires when he said, "God put me into His crucible. The fires got hotter and hotter. Then God began to ladle off the skimmings. I began to think that there was nothing but skimmings, and that there would be nothing left of Bud Robinson." When we are obedient to the Gospel, God begins molding us and shaping us into the image of His Son. James Seward said, "It is in the crucible of trial and temptation, sorrow and suffering that the heavenly Father transforms us...and grows us into Christlikeness." God allows us to experience trials and hardships in this life. But he doesn't waste them. He uses them to shape us, mold us, grow us into that beautiful image of His Son.
We may find ourselves in the midst of a challenging time, but we would do well to remember that God may be allowing us to go through this in order to bring us to place of greater spiritual strength. I love the way William Secker explained it over a century ago, "If Joseph had not been Egypt's prisoner, he would have never been Egypt's governor. The iron chains about his feet ushered in the golden chains about his neck." Is it possible that God allows us to experience hardships so that we will come to truly understand the peace that he affords? Notice the words of Jesus as He prepares his followers for his departure,
"...the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:32-33).
"In the world you will have tribulation." That's what our Savior said. And Jesus said that his reason for sharing these words with his followers is so they would have peace. But there doesn't seem to be any peace in tribulations. Even so, we must maintain an eternal perspective and know that "this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
When we face challenges, hardships, sorrow and suffering in this life, we must remember that this world is not our home. We must keep our eyes on the eternal home that God has prepared. We must remember that God will supply all we need "according to his power at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20). And we must always remember that God will use the experiences we have in life to bring us to the place he wants us to be.