Hardship: Anticipated or Shocked? (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5)
Real life is full of ups and downs. Good days and tough moments or even seasons when life can feel like an incredibly hard uphill battle. It’s been said that its not a matter of when you and I will face hardship, sorrow or trials but rather just when.
And yet so often we are knocked off our balance entirely by hardships and or suffering as believers. Why is this?
In part I believe that there is an unhelpful belief/teaching that makes out as if the Christian life is just victorious, just joy, just plain sailing… And when real life isn’t like this, such teaching/belief leads to a potential crisis of faith (God’s not faithful, loving or sovereign) or unhelpful spiritual introspection or even depression believing that the root cause must be lack of faith or an underlying sin issue that’s not been dealt with.
However, a simple reading of the New Testament letters reveals a different picture for us regarding suffering/hardships. Paul expected affliction/hardship, as did the Thessalonian believers because Paul had warned them in those first three weeks of their faith that hardship would come as a result of their faith in Christ. Paul says to them;
“For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.” (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4)
Paul wanted “no one (to) be moved by these afflictions” (vs3) that’s why he had warned them before the time that they would come.
I don’t believe Paul was morbid, negative, stoic or resigned to just enduring suffering and letting people walk all over him like a ‘welcome mat at the door’… I believe Paul was REAL, he knew that the enemy although defeated on the cross and having ultimately destiny with destruction at the Lord’s second coming was still the enemy and able to inflict pain and hardship, able to hinder the Gospel and able to hinder believers.
So, he anticipated hardship so was not shocked by it, not knocked off balance by it, but rather he and those he lead could be fortified in it and know how to respond to it with faith.