“I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 7:4).
FOR THE CHRISTIAN, DIFFICULTY IS A FACT OF LIFE. In a world where horrendous war is being fought between good and evil, hardship is only to be expected. Paul said, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). And continuing the military metaphor, he urged Timothy to “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).
The hardship is not the whole story, however. For the Christian, no matter what hard things are happening, there is always a great nevertheless. Speaking of himself and his coworkers, Paul wrote, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8,9).
Paul had the great ability to experience joy in the midst of tribulation. To the Corinthians, he wrote, “I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.” The hardship was undeniable, and Paul wasn’t one to underestimate it. But he had learned, in Christ, to see that the hardship was worth suffering.
For the people of God, there is coming a rest. “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.“ ‘ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them’ ” (Revelation 14:13). But the rest is not yet; it will come “in due season” (Galatians 6:9). Meanwhile, we must derive our joy not from pleasant circumstances but from the hope of heaven — and the knowledge that, even now, many good things are happening that will eventually contribute to the Lord’s triumph over all evil.
Difficulty and joy are not incompatible, as many people think. If a person wanted joy, even in this world, he wouldn’t necessarily look for a completely wrinkle-free lifestyle. Difficulty enhances joy, and the Christian ought to have experienced the truth of that principle more than anyone else. Properly dealt with, difficulty increases the satisfaction we feel when the hardship has been overcome. So for those bound for heaven, the difficulty doesn’t do anything but guarantee that their rest is going to be that much sweeter.
“Difficulty and joy are mutual friends” (Tim Hansel).