Read Acts 14:21-22
21 After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples,Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra,Iconium,and Antioch of Pisidia,22 where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith,reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. (NLT)
Life sometimes throws a lot at us. Things can go wrong in such a way that we wonder if God has gone off-duty,or we have done something so bad as to remove his protection from us. It is of course possible for us to stray from God in such deliberate ways so that we end up in trouble. Some trouble we do bring on ourselves.
But beware of jumping to that conclusion too quickly. Paul reminds us that following Jesus involves hardship and struggle. To experience hardship is not to necessarily suggest we are faulty followers of Jesus. To struggle is not to have failed. We suffer because we live in a world where not everything goes right,where not everything goes according to God’s original plans. To struggle is not to label ourselves as failures but merely as human beings.
Our great task is to survive struggle without succumbing to it and to bear it without being defeated by it. Our great hope is to come out of the struggle better than before we faced it. Our great challenge is to discern in that struggle just what our ever-present God is doing with us. We recall he is the one who will never send evil our way but will ceaselessly work to bring good out of the evil,and hope out of our struggles.