When we read the New Testament, we see that suffering was a common topic. In those writings, people were encouraged to deal with suffering in a positive way.
If you read the first letter written by the apostle Peter, you will see that he talks about it a lot. I’ve talked about it before in this post. Paul has also written about handling suffering in several of his letters.
In one occasion, Paul described the situation that he was living along with other believers:
To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment. (1 Corinthians 4:11-13)
He tells us about the difficulties that they faced, and how they acted: with kindness. For every act of injustice they received, they responded with kindness. And note that he doesn’t question or blame God for any of his sufferings and difficulties. But why did they have such a positive way of thinking and acting in spite of their suffering?
Actually, Paul had a different vision about suffering than we have today. Let’s check a few other excerpts of Paul’s writings about suffering:
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:16-18)
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:29-30)
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)
Paul thought of his sufferings as a way to share in Christ’s sufferings, and he considered it a precious gift, a priviledge. He also considered that sharing in Christ’s sufferings was a way of being prepared to share in His glory as well, in heaven.
He looked at God’s promises instead of his tough situation. He focused on what was waiting for him when this life is over, when he would receive the rewards for everything he went through.
For him, that was enough to justify any suffering. In fact, it was more than enough.