What does it look like to suffer well? It's easy to answer this question in theory, but much harder when suffering crashes into our experience. As I've struggled with chronic physical pain, sleeping through the night, and general weariness of body, mind, and soul, I've wondered if it’s okay to be angry, when it's right to ask God for deliverance from trials, and how it's possible to be joyful despite perplexing circumstances.
The apostle Paul knew and addressed the hardships of earthly life:
"For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage." (2 Cor. 5:1–6)
Paul reminds us that it's possible to be of good courage in suffering — to be full of hope, peace, and joy — as we cling to the gospel. Here are the four reasons he gives.
1. Be of good courage because heaven is coming.
Paul reminds us that our human bodies are temporary shelters broken down by the elements. We live a tent-like physical existence since sin has stained our perfection, separating body and soul through inescapable death.
One day, however, we will behold the return of Jesus on clouds of glory and the restoration of all things. On that day, our earthly tents will be transformed into indestructible buildings from God. Our souls will also be wholly restored as we’re freed from sin’s grip and our glorification is made complete.
But how does this future reality make us of good courage right now? It motivates us to place our ultimate hope in the last day and beyond, not in our present circumstances. Even if we’re never granted release from our current afflictions, we have gain in Christ because of our future home with him, purchased through redemption by his blood.