Handling the Hardships of Life

Written by Pastor Mark Shupe

Webster’s Dictionary defines hardship as “something that causes suffering or privation (being deprived).” As our governing authorities continue to place restrictions on what we can or cannot do, hardship has once again become a consuming focal point of our lives.

Whether we agree or disagree with the restrictions, we cannot escape the crippling effects the decisions of others are having on our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. The loss of freedoms, jobs, income, routines and an overall sense of security leave us feeling vulnerable, anxious and discouraged. We all are impacted at some level.

Hardships of life are nothing new to followers of Christ. In fact, facing and dealing with suffering and deprivation was a common topic of several books in the New Testament. Particularly, the Apostle Paul faced levels of hardship beyond what most of us will ever experience and his letter to the church at Philippi provides some helpful ways to process the difficulties of life we face today.

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.         – Philippians 4:11-13

In these three short verses Paul provides two key practices that when implemented, will enable us to experience the peace of God no matter what life brings our way.

First, learn to be content. The Greek word that is translated as “content” has the idea of being self-sufficient (in a good sense), adequate or satisfied. In context, Paul is saying he had learned the art of contentment as related to having or not having the financial support of the church at Philippi. Notice this perspective and approach to life’s situations was learned through Paul’s experiences and his openness to what God wanted to teach him through those times (good and bad).

Paul developed a perspective that “was used to describe the person who through discipline had become independent of external circumstances and who had discovered personal resources that were more than adequate for any situation that might arise.” 1 For us today, it simply means being open to hearing and learning from God no matter the hardships we are encountering.

Second, tap into the source of contentment. Paul did not muster up the strength to face difficulties on his own, rather he acknowledges the source and power that enabled him to live with sufficiency. That source was Christ; a knowledge of who Christ truly was and all He wanted to grant to Paul (see Philippians 3:7-14). That strength gave Paul the ability to handle all the sufferings he faced including numerous beatings, several shipwrecks and imprisonment (see 2 Corinthians 11:24-28).

How do we handle the hardships of life? Learn the art of contentment through the perspective and power that comes through our ongoing knowledge of Christ.

[1] Hawthorne, G. F. (2004). Philippians (Vol. 43, p. 263). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

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