What is the worst burden you ever faced? Maybe a financial calamity left you wondering how to make ends meet? Perhaps a doctor’s visit revealed a bad diagnosis with no easy solutions? Or did relational strain make you desperate to reconcile with someone you love? Was it emotional baggage that weighed you down with depression and fear? Issues like these are not only real, but also frequent in a world that is broken due to sin’s curse (Rom. 8:20-22). Adversity and affliction are just as predictable as the cold winds of winter, so much so that the rhythm of life is often set by their presence.
One of the greater challenges to weathering trials is the blinding perception that our burdens will plague us forever. Much of the emotional baggage born in adversity is tied to the false notion that our trials are here to stay. The heat of affliction has a way of melting our dreams and consuming the joys of living. With no end in sight, we often face the uncharted waters of depression as the waves of anxiety beat against our fragile hearts. Let me share a few reminders to help you cope when there is no light at the end of your tunnel.
Most Trials are Temporary
Though it seldom feels like it at the time, most of the adversities we face are only temporary inconveniences. The majority of our problems are not permanent experiences. Chances are, you WILL come out on the other side of whatever you are facing. This simple reminder is a constant source motivation for me during my most uncertain days. Like King David eloquently stated so long ago, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13, emphasis mine).” Knowing the temporary nature of our dilemmas frees us to look for the goodness of God beyond the current havoc we face.
I am not denying that, in rare instances, earthly burdens can endure throughout a lifetime. Nor do I mean to suggest that conflict resolution never results in sustained difficulties. Even God’s most powerful apostle possessed a thorn in his flesh throughout the span of his ministry. Despite his pleadings to the contrary, Paul’s affliction did not go away (2 Cor. 12:7-9). In a fallen world, much pain and heartache not only exist, but they also manifest through what often appear to be unfair quantities of both for certain people. Some agonies are so severe that they ultimately result in death. Yet, even in these cases, our discomfort remains temporary against the backdrop of eternity. Drink deeply from the words of a man who knew well the agonies of suffering, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:17-18).”
In other words, all suffering will come to an end someday! Usually, we experience the unbridled joy of overcoming distress while we are still alive as the goodness of the Lord is put on vivid display. Through other, more traumatic occurrences, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom. 8:18).” Either way, we can look forward to celebrating the end of our struggles and tribulations in the future.
All Trials Can Be Productive
Regardless of the cause or duration, all trials are remarkably productive in our lives. Because God is always working for our good in every circumstance (Rom. 8:28), we can rest knowing that a divine purpose lies behind each of our hardships. Even when we our suffering is the consequence of our own actions, God graciously uses our adversity to transform us.
Whether it produces deepened faith, strengthened endurance, or sincere repentance, every plight we face has a potential benefit when we respond appropriately. You may be closer to God than ever before as a result. Or, you might serve God with more enthusiasm than before. Perhaps you will inspire other people through your example. Maybe your priorities will finally reflect eternity rather than the here and now. However God chooses work in you and/or through you, reaping the harvest of spiritual growth is a redemptive byproduct of living with the uninvited guest of heartache. Dr Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.