Fighting Discouragement in the Midst of Suffering and Adversity

Difficult circumstances. Suffering. Challenges. Adversity. Events that spiral out of control. Hardship. We have many ways to express it, but the underlying experience is much the same. And like it or not, we’ll all face a good deal of it in our lifetimes. To live life as finite and flawed person in a broken world virtually guarantees this to be so.

This is the case even though many of us don’t face the critical issues so prevalent elsewhere in the world, like lack of food or the threat of deadly violence. We still need to contend with besetting medical problems, failures at work and life-altering financial setbacks, wrenching relational wounds, the inevitable process of aging and dying. Add to this what can sometimes be the greater challenge of witnessing these same things in the lives of those we care about deeply.

Most who’ve been in these circumstances for any length of time know all too well how they can breed an oppressive discouragement. How, then, can we face them?

While no blog post can address that question fully, I will hazard a few thoughts that I hope are of practical use:

1. Recognize that you were never promised an earthly life free of difficulty.

It’s completely appropriate to lament genuine difficulty. The pain and sorrow we experience in these situations is a clue that the all is not currently as God intended it to be. Still, in this time before God makes all things new, he does not promise any of us a life free from suffering. In fact, he promises the opposite.

2. Recognize that God lovingly uses suffering and difficulty in the lives of his people for our ultimate good.

For those who trust in Christ, God gives promises that are nothing short of astounding. He assures us that our suffering is anything but gratuitous. In his hands, suffering helps us realize our very real dependence on him (e.g., Psa. 86:1–7), fosters perseverance and godly maturity (James 1:2–4), acts as fatherly discipline (Heb. 12:5–11), mysteriously prepares our eternal glory (2 Cor. 4:17), and even helps us gain much need perspective on both our current problems and our future hope (Rom. 8:18). Amazingly, he assures us that every bit of our difficulty is used for our good (Rom. 8:28).

3. Don’t go it alone.

Christianity is a “one another” faith. There is no other way that God designed for us to follow him. It’s critical to realize that we’re not meant to bear our burdens alone (Gal. 6:2). “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10)

4. Bathe in God’s truth and promises.

Adversity and suffering regularly distorts the perspective we have of our lives and circumstances. We constantly need to renew our vision and understanding with corrective lens of God’s word. There we find reality. We find strength and patience born of grace. We find a hope that will not disappoint, a hope almost beyond what we can dream. We all these things because it’s there we see that the glorious and mighty King of the universe is also our ever present comforter, steadfast in his love and always willing to help in times of need, unfailingly bringing about his good work in the lives of his people.

It’s worth writing or printing out relevant passages to put them in places you’ll see them throughout the day: your mirror, fridge, car, desk, computer, coffee table, windowsill. It nothing like an exhaustive list, but I’ll close with a few suggestions that I’ve found helpful. By all means add your own:

Isaiah 40:28-31
Psalm 23
Psalm 25:16-18
Psalm 34:4-10
Psalm 34:17-19
Psalm 86:1-7
Psalm 103
Psalm 145:8-9
Psalm 145:14-19
Romans 8:18
Romans 8:28
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Philippians 4:4-7
Hebrews 4:14-16
Hebrews 12:5-11
Revelation 21:1-5

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