How You Can Endure Adversity
“BY ENDURANCE on your part you will acquire your souls.” Jesus Christ spoke those words when giving his prophecy concerning “the time of the end.” (Luke 21:19; Daniel 12:4) In his statement, these two points stand out: (1) Endurance is essential to the saving of our life, and (2) it is possible to endure.
But how can you endure? To answer this question, we first need to know why Jehovah permits suffering and persecution to come upon his servants.
Suffering and Persecution—Why?
The prime reason is that Satan challenged the rightfulness and righteousness of Jehovah’s sovereignty. (Genesis 3:1-19) Jehovah has arranged to meet this challenge for his own name’s sake and for the sake of others.
God has also allowed his people to suffer for purposes that can prove to be very beneficial to us if we view such affliction in the right way. For example, if we endure when under trial without resentment toward our adversities, we are proving that our faith is genuine, the kind of faith that pleases God. (1 Peter 1:6, 7; Hebrews 11:6) But affliction can also show up such personality flaws as pride, impatience, and love of ease. With the help of God’s spirit, we can work to overcome such traits and more fully ‘clothe ourselves with the new personality.’—Colossians 3:9-14.
The psalmist expressed this point for us very well, saying: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, in order that I may learn your regulations.” (Psalm 119:71) What a fine way to view affliction! No complaining or murmuring. No selfish concern for any personal loss that the affliction might have caused. Rather, here is wise realization that what Jehovah permitted to come upon the psalmist could help him to appreciate the regulations of Jehovah more fully. Do we allow suffering to have the same effect on us?
The apostle Paul benefited from the tribulation he experienced in the district of Asia. For one thing, this adversity made him depend more fully upon Jehovah. It also underlined the apostle’s belief in the resurrection, for he endured his hardships with complete trust in “the God who raises up the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10) Yes, Paul enjoyed benefits because of his endurance under suffering.
The same is true of those Christians who have the right view of affliction today. In Zimbabwe, a country once plagued with guerrilla warfare, a congregation of Jehovah’s people was moved into a protected village. Due to the wartime conditions, each of the three appointed elders in the congregation had lost a child in death. Moreover, the local people were putting great pressure on these Christian parents to compromise their faith by appeasing the spirits that were said to have been angered. How did the elders feel about this? Speaking for all three, one of them said: “While the nation is at war, we are also at war with the wicked spirits. We have an advantage over the enemy [wicked spirit forces] in that we have a hope, a living one. So, even if we die in the fight, as long as we die faithful to Jehovah, we shall be resurrected. We shall have conquered the enemy.” These three faithful men never lost sight of Jehovah’s power to deliver. Noting their firm stand, we, too, should be convinced that we can endure!
When Persecution Is Brutal
‘But what if the persecution is brutal, with cruel methods of torture being used?’ you may ask. ‘Can we even then endure and not give out in our faith?’ Well, early Christians were able to endure horrible treatment without compromising their faith.
Similarly, full faith in Jehovah was demonstrated by a present-day Christian living in an isolated rural area of Zimbabwe. He was alone on one occasion because his wife had gone to visit their married daughter. Suddenly, he was accosted by some armed men who made false accusations because of his Christian stand. After beating him severely, these men tied red-hot bricks between his legs and also made him walk on such bricks. Then he was left alone to die. Because the sudden change of conditions in the area had made travel impossible, the man’s wife was not aware of her husband’s plight. Neighbors were ordered on pain of death not to help him. So he remained alone in this condition for three whole months, daily expecting to die.
This suffering Christian man was able to sustain himself on supplies of water and maize meal at his home. But because of the mistreatment he had received, he could not walk. Therefore, when nearby firewood ran out, he had to break up his furniture and use this to make cooking fires. The water became rusty and full of worms. His burns continued to fester.
This was the brother’s condition when his wife was finally able to return home three months later. Imagine how she felt upon seeing him! Immediately, she made preparations to get him to a hospital. To do this, she had to take him in a wheelbarrow to the nearest bus stop and from there get him to town where there was a hospital. Three weeks later, he was discharged from the hospital and went to the home of his daughter, where he received spiritual aid and encouragement from members of the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in that area.
What helped this loyal supporter of God’s Kingdom to endure brutal treatment? For three months he was entirely on his own. He fully expected to die. And yet, when asked how he felt during this ordeal, his answer was, “I felt that Jehovah was with me all the time.” There were no complaints against his persecutors or lamenting over what had happened to him—just firm conviction that Jehovah never forsakes his loyal servants.—Psalm 37:28.
Yes, Christians can endure. They know that if Jehovah allows tribulation, it is for a good purpose, and endurance is possible. God’s Word and the experiences of others assure us of this fact. (Matthew 24:13) However, while enduring trials, we often need to be comforted, do we not? But where should we turn for such comfort?