When I read the Bible, I am amazed by the drama. Events that unfold from page to page are enough to make a grown man cry. This is especially true for God’s chosen people, whether it was Israel in the Old Testament, or Christians in the New Testament. Almost on every page we see trials and tribulations for God’s people. If you think health and wealth is part of the package after accepting Jesus, you have apparently never read the Bible.
One person who bore the full blow of trials and tribulations was Paul. He was a man with a target on his back. We are told in Acts 23 that forty men took a vow not to eat until they killed Paul. Trust me, I have had plenty of people mad at me over the years, but none have risked ending their life so as to end mine.
In the midst of that kind of trial where does one find comfort, where does one find peace. For Paul, he found peace in the sovereign plan of the Lord.
In one of the most intense times of Paul’s life the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” What an interesting thing to tell Paul. Of all the ways God could have comforted Paul in the midst of his moment of anxiety, he informed Paul that there were more pages left in Paul’s story. God effectively tells Paul, don’t worry, I have predestined you for more.
This is not the only place in scripture that we find God's predetermined plan to be the source of comfort for his followers. Peter's first two sermons after Jesus' ascension has God's sovereign plan stuck right in the middle. Likewise, Paul's powerful explanation of God's sovereign plan for election in Romans 9 is the foundation in which enables Paul to continue to go and make disciples. Lastly, Job is one of the most frequently read books in the Bible for people who are suffering and the purpose of the book is to reveal to us that God is not absent from our suffering and will bring us through it into greener pastures if we endure.
So how does knowing God is in control, even in the midst of our suffering, comfort us? It comforts us because if we know that our suffering is not an end. It is a means to an end. It has a purpose. When we accept this truth it changes our perspective. If we know that suffering is part of the plan, then when it comes, we are not shaken by it. Instead we endure it. This is similar to an athlete enduring resistance when working out. An Olympic athlete is not beside himself when their coach tells them to run an extra mile, do an extra push up, perform an extra drill. This is part of what refines them to be the athlete that they are capable of being. It gives them strength to press on, for they have yet to reach the finish line. It is the same with a Christian's walk. Your discomfort serves a greater purpose. It is not a devastating end, but a hurdle along the way. Paul says it best in Philippians 3:14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”