That morning of our near-disastrous boat trip, I was surprised by the sudden appearance of wind and black clouds. They came out of nowhere. I’m sure the disciples climbed into the boat and pushed off into calm waters not a storm-tossed sea.
Often we’re surprised when storms and hard times hit. But why is this? When we read our Bibles we discover that suffering is not strange or unusual. In the Old Testament, God’s people suffered greatly, especially the prophets who carried God’s words to his people. The disciples, the men chosen by God to be his messengers, endured great hardships for their faith, including persecution, homelessness, stoning, imprisonment, and death. The apostle Peter wrote to Christians in his day who were experiencing terrible persecution: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 peter 4:12).
No matter where our storm comes from, God is doing something in the midst of it. My storm and both of the Galilee storms brought the disciples and the three of us in our boat to the end of our abilities. From that place of helplessness and desperation we were able to witness Jesus’s power and his love. Jesus calmed the sea, revealing his identity as Lord over the wind and the sea, and as our Rescuer and Deliverer.
God has other purposes for our trials as well. Perhaps no other apostle speaks about this more than Paul who endured more sufferings than any other apostle. In 2 Corinthians, Paul opens his letter with heartfelt praise for God, sharing with us God’s design for suffering:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 corinthians 1:3–4)
All that we receive from God in our own trials is meant to be passed on to others in their trials.
Paul also writes about the ways our hardships make us like Jesus. He wanted to “know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” so that he too could “[attain] to the resurrection from the dead” (philippians 3:10–11). Sharing in Christ’s sufferings means we will also share in his resurrection.
Through his many life-threatening trials, Paul learned to be entirely reliant upon Jesus. He experienced this extraordinary principle that we may experience as well: even while his body was “wasting away,” inwardly, in his spirit, he was “being renewed day by day” (2 corinthians 4:16).
More than this, our trials are somehow mysteriously preparing us for eternity. Paul writes, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 corinthians 4:17).
Friend, I don’t know what you are enduring right now. But know without a doubt that God is “the Father of all compassion.” Know that your suffering will end. Until then, none of it is wasted. All of it will bear fruit, for you and for others, for now and for eternity, if you let it.