The Christian is not promised an easy life in this world. To assume that following Christ will lead a trouble-free life is not something that the Bible supports, it is really a soft version of the prosperity gospel. The Christian—even the Christian in the affluent, comfortable, safe, suburbs of the West—will face trials, hardships, and difficulties that challenge one’s faith. If we follow Christ, we will face suffering and tribulation: it is through “many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of heaven” (Acts 14:22). God has not only graciously granted to us that we might believe in Christ, but also that we might “suffer for his sake” (Phil 1:29).
In the midst of difficulties and hardships we endure (and they will be different for each person), there is a truth we ought to keep before the eyes of our hearts. I believe it is a truth that helps us endure the difficulties and gladdens our hearts even in the midst of pain and sorrow. The truth is this: at least one reason God allows trials in our lives and difficulties is that we might know Christ more. I believe that keeping this truth fresh in our minds and hearts helps us in the midst of suffering and brings a perspective that can guard us from giving into self-pity, grumbling, or unbelief.
We know that God uses trials in this way because God prunes us so that we might bear more fruit. We are the branches and Christ the vine and the Father the vine dresser. We are pruned that we might be more like Christ and bear more of the fruit of godliness and righteousness in our own lives (John 15). Part of this is fruit is seeing that Christ is everything and a treasure to be had above all the world can offer. Jesus equates a knowledge of God and Christ with eternal life itself: “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). And Paul spoke this way: “To live is Christ” (Phil 1:21a). A Christian has come to experience and know this sweet and precious knowledge in his or her heart.
Thus, it is reasonable to believe that at least one reason God allows hardships and difficulties in our lives is to help us grow in knowing Christ more. As Christians we are tempted with the things of the world, and can easily slide into a posture of coldness, distraction, or unbelief in our hearts. Yet God is gracious and brings trials to our lives to help us see again the truth that Christ is everything. He is gracious to help grow in maturity in this area, that we would live this out more consistently and grasp it even more fully.
I believe that keeping this fact—that at least one reason I’m going through these things is so that I might know Christ more—at the forefront of our minds and hearts will help us in the midst of our trials.