Things Could Be Worse

When going through a rough time, it helps to put your troubles in perspective by considering what some others have gone through.

Take the Apostle Paul, for example. He suffered plenty. “Five times I received forty stripes minus one,” he writes. “Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren.”1

Having gone through all that, you’d think that of all people he’d have reason to complain or feel that God had maybe forsaken him. But to the contrary, He continued to trust God despite his troubles, saying: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”2 What was his secret to overcoming the obstacles? It’s found in the next verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”3 He leaned on Jesus, and Jesus gave Him strength. And through this, Paul became a great man of God and an inspiration to millions ever since.

David Livingstone, called the Apostle to Africa, was born in poverty and struggled from childhood for his education, while supporting himself and his family. When he decided as a young man to spend his life as a missionary, he was mocked and scoffed. Even those he loved tried to dissuade him. When he finally arrived in Africa, life presented one hardship after another—not only the difficulties of daily life and natural dangers, but many spiritual tests also.

Yet he looked beyond his present circumstances, as summed up in these words spoken to students at Cambridge University: “Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver and the soul to sink, but let this be only for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in and for us [in heaven]. I never made a sacrifice.”4 Adoniram Judson, the pioneer missionary to Burma, persevered for 30 years despite constant sickness and persecution. It took six years for him to win his first convert, but 100 years later there were over 200,000 Christians in Burma, largely as a result of the work that he had begun.

Hudson Taylor, a great missionary to China who suffered many hardships and heartbreaks, had this to say about difficulties and trials: “All God’s dealings are full of blessing; He is good, and doeth good; good only, and continually. … We may be sure that days of adversity are still days of prosperity also, and are full of blessing. The believer does not need to wait until he sees the reason of God’s affective dealings with him here he is satisfied; he knows that all things work together for good to them that love God.”5

Becky, a young Chinese woman born around the time of the Cultural Revolution of 1965, was shunned and persecuted by society and government authorities after becoming a Christian. In spite of serious health problems including a bout with leukemia, beatings, the kidnapping of her daughter, interrogations, and imprisonment, she and her husband continued quietly yet firmly practicing their faith and telling others about God’s love through 12 years of extremely adverse conditions. In 1992 she was able to travel out of the country and has been ministering to other new Christians in China by mail, encouraging them to keep the faith as well.

1. 2 Corinthians 11:24-26
2. Philippians 4:11-12
3. Philippians 4:13
4. Speech to students at Cambridge University (4 December 1857)
5. Meditations on the History of Job
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