I would venture to say that few, if any, have suffered tribulation as Paul suffered for the glory of Christ. Speaking against false teachers in Corinth, Paul told the Corinthians, “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one — I am talking like a madman — with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.” 2 Corinthians 11:22-28 (RSV)
“For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.” 2 Corinthians 7:5 (NASB). Why does God allow true believers to be “afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within?”
One of His purposes is to show us His all-sufficient grace, strength and comfort. In verse 6 (2 Cor. 7:6) he says, “But, God who comforts the depressed, comforts us…” (NASB). Whether it be illness, a sad heart, a heavy burden — we are to cast our cares on Him.
“However, we possess this precious treasure [the divine Light of the Gospel] in [frail, human] vessels of earth, that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be of God and not from ourselves.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 (Amplified).
Another reason Christians suffer affliction and tribulation is to teach us to be dependent upon Him. He wants us to know that we are in His hands, that we are to rely upon Him. That is where Jesus was on earth — remember His prayer in the Garden — “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” That is where we must be. We cannot stand on our own strength. We must trust in God.
I found this short poem several years ago. I do not know the author, but it helps give us an understanding of why we have to face trials in life.
Why must I weep when others sing?
“To test the depths of suffering.”
Why must I work while others rest?
“To spend my strength at God’s request.”
Why must I lose while others gain?
“To understand defeats sharp pain.”
Why must this lot of life be mine
When that which is fairer seems is thine?
“Because God knows what plans for me
Will blossom in eternity.”