Christian Living

Suffering Adversity and Character Development

Author Greg Koukl Published on 12/03/2013

Whatever difficulties you face, it’s safe to say there is something else going on than what meets the eye.

In what way is God working all things for good? According to Romans 8:28, God is conforming us to the image of his Son. Jesus Himself was brought to maturity through suffering. Hebrews 2:10 says, “For it was fitting for God, for Whom and through Whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the Author of their salvation through sufferings.”

The author of salvation is Jesus. He was brought to His proper fullness and maturity through suffering. This was the way Jesus lived, so this is the way that followers of Jesus will live. This is one of the most profound lessons I have been confronted with as a follower of Christ. I hesitate to say I’ve learned the lesson because I don’t know if the lesson is ever fully learned.

It is a lesson that we are confronted with time and time again: spiritual growth comes principally through hardship. I’m not saying that the Christian life is always miserable. I’m saying that the means by which God gets our attention and changes us is often through difficulty, hardship, and suffering, which is demonstrated throughout the New Testament. That’s why I’m mystified as to how folks like those in the so-called Word Faith movement believe that God wants us healthy, wealthy, and prosperous at all times.

Persevering under suffering and difficulty is the theme for the believer in 1 Peter. It talks about Jesus as our example: suffering unjustly, not speaking out, not complaining, and trusting His soul to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

I was talking about this concept with a friend of mine who’s going through some very difficult things. Sometimes we can accept persecution as part of being a Christian. Some adversities, like marital strife or problems with children, are harder to accept. They are things that seize us as they come upon us. We didn’t deserve it, we didn’t cause it, but there it is.

On the one hand, there is the practical side of deciding how to solve the issue. On the other hand, there is something God is doing that is unrelated to the conflict itself. The conflict is the tool that God is using to do something else in the life of the Christian.

Lewis captures this notion wonderfully in a number of places in the Chronicles of Narnia series. In The Horse and His Boy, Aslan reveals to this boy, who has gone through hardships of all sorts through his life, that the hardships have been orchestrated by Aslan to accomplish a particular goal. The goal is good and noble yet not obvious in the midst of the hardships.

Whatever difficulties you face, it’s safe to say there is something else going on than what meets the eye. There is something that God is intending to accomplish within us that is something other than the nature of the conflict itself.

When you are in a difficult trial and the pressure becomes almost unbearable, you may cry out to God, and it may seem that the circumstances get worse. The pressure increases and you cry out because you think you can’t take it. You start to wonder what the point is and where the good is. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s as if you’re under this weight, and the weight is being piled on more and more. You’re crying out and then something happens.

The thing that happens is not that the weight gets removed. Rather, something deep inside of you moves. The pressure is so immense that it causes something to shift. The thing that God wants to shift is so calcified, solidified, and resistant to movement that it takes an unbelievable amount of pressure.

I can think of a specific occasion in my own life in which this occurred. Afterwards, I felt a significant shift had taken place. Deep down inside of me, something changed, and it was so deep and significant that it was a forever kind of change. The world looked different to me after that. If that shift hadn’t taken place, I don’t think I’d be doing what I do at Stand to Reason today.

I’m offering this reflection as an encouragement to those who are feeling the weight. You’re crying out wondering what could be worse? What could happen next? Things may get worse and pressure may increase, but stay the course. Just stay the course, for we know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He pre-destined to become conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:28–29).