It’s So Hard!

  • Randy Karlberg
Close up of a mans closed eyes

I don’t think that I am the only one who is experiencing difficult challenges in their life right now. Life can be very difficult at times, and that is even without considering the social and health challenges that are impacting most of society currently. Even with the advancements in science, the medical disciplines, technology, and personal health, life can be extremely difficult. There are aspects of this world that will continue to plague humankind until life as we know it is changed in the “twinkling of an eye.” As we wait and long for the promised return of our Savior, we will remain beleaguered by the struggles of this world.

So where is the encouragement in that? How are we to remain obedient and yet hopeful amidst the individual trials that each of us must tread? I have found encouragement in the factual narrative of genuine people of the Bible. I receive comfort in reading the full accounts of their lives. Let’s begin with Esther. “What” you say? “Esther didn’t have a tough life.” She had so much going for her. She was Queen of the land after all. And to quote the Bible, not my words, Esther “had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at!”

Who could ask for anything more than that? Well we need to remember she lived with her Uncle Mordecai because both her Mom and Dad had died when she was young! She was a foreigner in the land. Oh and a wicked leader tried to have all of her people murdered because he hated her Uncle Mordecai. If that wasn’t enough, she had the lives of all of her people depending on her success when her uncle said to her in Esther 4:13-14 , “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at his time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” That is a great deal of pressure. And there are no guarantees as to what the Lord is going to do. But God used this situation for building up the faith of this beautiful young woman named Esther, and He delivered His people for His name sake.

Let’s remember the dreamer Joseph who was sold into slavery because he did not realize how to communicate with older brothers. Okay, maybe there was more to it than that.

Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers. He was bought and served a man whose wife was infatuated with him. It very well may have been because as Genesis 39:6 says, “Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.” As you recall, he was sent to prison for two years only to be used by God in such a massive way. He was appointed by Pharaoh the second highest position in all of Egypt! Only Pharaoh had more power than he. In Genesis 41:44 we read, “Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.’” Not a bad position for a foreign slave. Then when Joseph had an opportunity to get retribution on his brothers, he wept instead, heavily at being able to be with them again. Hey, crying doesn’t make you a bad guy, okay? But when the brothers feared the potential retribution, Joseph is quoted as saying to his brothers in Genesis 50:19-20 , “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” I am amazed at Joseph’s perspective on his life.

But what about struggles between Christian brothers and sisters? How can those times of extreme anguish be used for positive? Now I will admit that I am at a loss trying to find a passage of Scripture that tells us how attractive the Apostle Paul was. I can only surmise that his greatest gift was not his physical appearance. When we read about the intense argument between Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15 , one can only conclude that they had irreconcilable differences. “After some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the Word of the Lord, and see how they are.’ Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed…” Paul and Barnabas had been through so many challenges together. They had faithfully served the Lord together so many years. I do not think it is a stretch to say that Barnabas was Paul’s best friend. After all, in Acts 9 Barnabas is the one who stood up for Paul and brought the ex-persecutor to meet with the apostles. He was the one man who stood in defense of Paul early on. Now you have lost your best friend and confidant for the sake of God’s work?

As you know, God used this disagreement to separate the two missionaries into two different missionary groups so the Good News could be spread more broadly. And later in some of Paul’s letters, he mentions how much Mark means to him, hinting that restoration had occurred.

So in the midst of suffering in our lives, even for the service of God, remember God is the one who uses pain and suffering to bring about change in peoples lives and to ultimately bring glory to Himself. Think about what Esther, Joseph, and Paul would have missed out on if they had not gone through the temporal suffering in their lives. We do not know how God is going to use the current challenges we are experiencing, but what is best for us is to cast our burdens at the feet of our Savior and look for the work He desires to do in you and through you.