Some Specific Christian Hardships Analyzed
Need- Psalm 34:9-10 says: “O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.”
After Jesus emphasized in Matthew chapter 6 that we must seek treasure in heaven, and therefore ought not to lay up treasure on earth and not serve mammon, He gave us the solution regarding our earthly needs in Matthew 6:25-34. If we seek His kingdom first and make walking in righteousness before Him our supreme priority, He has promised to take care of us. God often suffered Israel in the wilderness to be brought to a place where they didn’t even have water for a time- but nevertheless they received it when they really needed it. Sadly, Israel usually complained and provoked God to anger by their unbelief and not taking to heart the previous deliverances which He had provided. In essence, they accused God of either not caring for them, or of being weak and incompetent, though they had already seen such clear evidence otherwise. They are examples for us to not be like them in their sins (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-12). We should remember their bad example when we are feeling driven towards despair. We should also remember how all their doubting and complaining was proven unfounded and foolish. We can’t predict when and how God will provide, as it’s hard to say when we absolutely must have something. Paul had learned “to suffer need” for a time in his walk with Christ, as well as how to handle abundance (Philippians 4:11-13). That he had times of need didn’t mean God failed him; it just meant that God let Him suffer a while for some reason. God didn’t forget Paul and He doesn’t forget us.
Matthew 10:28-33: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing (i.e. a penny, actually even less)? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” -Also see Titus 1:16, etc; we can deny Christ by our deeds as well as by our words.
Yet when we still lack when we really think we shouldn’t anymore, we are in a dangerous spot and we are in desperate need to lean on God’s promises and to pray to not enter into temptation. There will surely be great temptation at this point to seek some unlawful means of getting our needs and/or our strong wants to be fulfilled. We have to be resolved to stay with the Lord and keep His commandments unconditionally like the young men in Daniel chapter 3, who were willing to be burned in a fiery furnace before they’d fall down to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s graven image. The Lord delivered them in the fiery furnace that they were thrown into- because they stood by faith and trusted Him in the moment of deep darkness (see Hebrews 11:33-34). And that is what we must be resolved to do! And even if the Lord hadn’t come to their rescue, it was still infinitely better for them in consideration of eternity, and still the only righteous choice, to refuse to bow to another god besides the true God.
This principle holds true regarding times of lack in anything and everything- needs of the body, perceived emotional needs, needs regarding difficulty in handling stress and adversity, etc. It would be easy in these times to give in to do something dishonest, to steal, or to do something else unlawful to provide for ourselves and/or those under our care, to give in to an ungodly relationship in a time of loneliness or pain, to forego a righteous duty which we really need to do now in order to get sleep when we are really tired, to practice deceit under stress, or to bow to the decrees of a tyrannical authority seeking your unrighteous compliance and brutally threatening you if you don’t give it, etc. Yet we can’t do such things because God is on His throne, we are still obligated to obey His commandments (Revelation 22:14-15, etc), He is worthy even if obeying Him means loss and/or pain in this life, and He will see to it that it will be well ultimately for those who choose to love and obey Him no matter the cost.
He has also shown in the Bible that deliverance at the last second, or even after what seemed to be the last second, is normal for Him. He provided in lots of different ways by many different means for His people in Scripture- and He is still the same today. He can use other people, nature, and angels to provide what needs to be provided- and many other things too of course, since He is creative. He even fed Israel with manna from heaven in the wilderness (Exodus chapter 16); and He used ravens to feed Elijah during a time of famine (1 Kings chapter 17). So don’t compromise and don’t give up in doing righteousness before Him wholeheartedly. How we handle desperation does much to show our true colors- and is a key test to show whether we’ll go as far as we need to in order to genuinely worship God. So if we should find ourselves at that point we should hold on to the Lord, refuse to deny Him in any way, pray earnestly, do what is in our power to righteously do, and trust Him still when all looks dark.
Loneliness/Prolonged Singleness: It shouldn’t be considered strange if a Christian needs to be alone, with little or no support from other people. Christ Himself was rejected and died that way. It’s wrong to impose loneliness upon ourselves because we don’t want to be bothered or because we are unnecessarily argumentative or nit-picky about the faults of others. It is wrong to be alone because we are foregoing duties which we are obligated to perform in our circumstances. Yet if we find ourselves in a lonely place that we haven’t imposed upon ourselves by our own pride, stubbornness, neglect, etc then it is a chance to know Christ and to find that He is enough whatever company we should lack.
It’s worth talking here about finding a marriage partner. I believe that many fall away from the Lord, or fail to mature much in the Lord, due to problems related to this. Many also are harmed spiritually in the same ways due to not divorcing a spouse who is bent on leading them into sin; or is otherwise interfering with their home being an environment where the faithful worship of God can happen without hindrance. And many find going through with a divorce in such a case where divorce is a righteous necessity to be a great difficulty for a lot of reasons- and a key one of those reasons being that they don’t want to be alone.
Those who have suffered a divorce and are not remarried yet, and those who otherwise face prolonged singleness, typically lack good counsel and guidance in how to manage being single, especially as they get older. Note that in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 that Paul recommended marriage to avoid fornication. He did not, in dealing with this subject, bring up obtaining children. When God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, the populating of the world depended on them doing that. The world has been filled with people, even in the first century it had been- and much, much more so now. And that is not to say that schemes to depopulate the world aren’t evil now nor to say that children aren’t a blessing still. Nevertheless, Paul. with his Apostolic mind, led by God’s Spirit primarily saw that prolonged adult singleness was typically not the best option for Christians because of the need to avoid fornication. Continually burning in temptation and lack of companionship can easily be the result of prolonged singleness, especially when Christian boundaries are maintained and Christian principles are held to. Succumbing to forbidden pleasure and unrighteous companionship can relieve that burning temporarily, yet that is defeat; that is succumbing to evil. To be a faithful Christian who overcomes and inherits salvation through Christ we must choose to suffer for righteousness and to reject the pleasures of sin in this life. So though burning in temptation and lack of companionship is indeed a problem, and one that you may not be able to righteously relieve in the short-term, at the same time it is a problem that can be overcome righteously for as long as someone needs to remain single. Our society says otherwise- yet that is a lie. You can be faithful and pure in this area- even if you don’t get married in early adulthood or even if you get divorced at an age while your hormones are still raging; and in both cases, even if you don’t have a special gift of singleness. It is a battle others have fought victoriously; and it is a battle others are fighting faithfully now.
Every Christian ought to be anchored in the fear of God so that even if it could be truly said that the temptations and trials they face are miserable (in this area or in any area really), it is still much better to endure misery for righteousness’ sake than it is to relieve yourself through sin. And even though it is better to marry than to burn, it is also better to burn in celibacy than it is to yield to sin to relieve that burning- and so damage yourself and offend against God. It is also better to burn than to enter into an ungodly marriage and/or a marriage otherwise which you know cannot be God’s best for you. Perhaps if you were to patiently wait a little longer a potential marriage partner would come who doesn’t display red flags, even as you honestly look for such with the willingness to back off if you do see any red flags. Yet even if such a person doesn’t come around anytime soon, and singleness is your only righteous lot for a while yet, it’s still better to face that trial is still way better than entering into a marriage with red flags attached.
Whether someone has a special gift of singleness or not, those with definite goals and missions will likely do better being single and feel much better about being celibate than others. Even lost people sometimes just skip over snares related to fornication and certain other vices simply because they are taken up with their studies, their job, sports, and/or some hobby that they are obsessed with. Though they’re idolaters who are not serving God and are rather living in sin, they are at least being spared from a lot of damage (remember 1 Corinthians chapter 6 says that he who commits fornication sinneth against his own body). These also serve as lessons of how Christians can be active in ways that are consistent with serving God faithfully to indeed avoid the snares of sexual immorality and the bad habits which people often take up to compensate for the void they feel in relation to lack of romance, companionship, etc. So even if singleness is seen as a great disadvantage for a Christian, like any disadvantage it is possible to spin it, overcome it, and use it to your advantage instead. Single people who are struggling definitely need encouragement and instruction along these lines. In the grace of God, and by the grace of God, praying for His help through Jesus Christ one day, one week, one year at a time, singleness- even long-term singleness can righteously be handled. It is especially important here to fill your life with righteous activities which can glorify God. And it is important that, if you need to have diversions in your life, to be sure they are things which don’t involve sin; and that they are things which you make sure you do not get addicted to. They should be activities that we can do after praying to God and reading the Bible without them being counterproductive activities to that prayer and Bible reading- and they should be able to be moved on smoothly from to return to our Christian duties and our other duties in life.
What Does “Cannot Contain” in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 mean? 1 Corinthians 7:8-9: “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” Is this teaching that someone who is defeated by sexual sin should get married to solve the problem of their inability to exercise self-control? Some definitely think that. But if that were true, that would mean the Apostle Paul is teaching here that the person marrying them would have to compromise Christian standards in their selection of a spouse. And that is ridiculous. There is a way to understand this without having to come to such a ridiculous and unrighteous conclusion. It should be established that nobody ever needs to commit sexual sin, even if they are single and they find being single very difficult. And anyone who is yielding to temptation and lacking self-control will not be cured of this just by getting married. They will likely still be plagued by sexual sin after marriage. And even if they are not, they will still carry habits of being impulsive and intemperate which will manifest themselves in other ways (like bad temper, talking way too much, improper eating, inability to handle finances well, etc). If someone does not seek God and learn to take up their cross daily to overcome sexual sin by His grace while they are single, then marriage will not cure them of their carnality. Marriage will only draw someone else into having to put up with their carnality in a very personal and continual way.
So what does the phrase “cannot contain” actually mean if it can only apply to faithful Christians who are righteously eligible to enter into marriage with another faithful Christian? Consider the Apostle Paul’s main point in this chapter as he talked about the perspective which Christians should have about marriage. That point can be summed up well by 1 Corinthians 7:35: “And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” Paul had been saying throughout this chapter that singleness, when one could handle it well, is in general a better state to attend upon the Lord without distraction. Marriage brings a set of cares and snares related to this life which are good to avoid. If someone is happy and prospering in the Lord while single, it is best that they stay single (unless perhaps they get an opportunity to get married wherein they honestly believe they can serve God even better). And yet, going back to the opening nine verses of 1 Corinthians chapter 7, many single Christians find the weight of long-term singleness to be a very hard thing to bear. They can overcome sexual sin and endure faithfully in this state as long as they need to by the grace of God, yet they may find it so difficult that it is a weight and a care to them which is even greater than the weights and cares typically associated with marriage.
Obviously the weights and cares of an unequal marriage yoke are way worse than the weights associated with being single would ever likely be, but that truth only strengthens the case that “cannot contain” here is referring to finding singleness to be a notable difficulty, not as a reference to being overcome by sexual sin. Viewing it as the latter would mean that another Christian would have to compromise, and enter into a marriage that would be a tremendous spiritual weight for them, in order to help solve the other’s sexual sin problems. That is a view which is neither righteous nor practical. Yet when “cannot contain” is understood as singleness being a weight that might hold someone back from serving the Lord as well as they might if they were to marry another faithful Christian, then that is both a sensible and righteous understanding of what Paul meant here in 1 Corinthians chapter 7. Such an understanding also lines up well with the main point Paul sought to drive home in this chapter related to how Christians should view and approach marriage.
Extreme Temptation- The Bible, in speaking of the fear of God, so often relates it to the area of sexual sin. We speak about it here in a separate section because it’s more than just an issue for single people with no marriage partner. We know that married people still can easily be deceived and led astray by sexual sin. Yet as with all temptation, if we let our minds be renewed by God’s Word and lean on that Word as Jesus did when He was tempted, then we can be delivered from the snares of temptation and overcome. If the truth of God reigns in our hearts and minds we will be set free from foolish desires and lustful attitudes which snare people in sexual sin and other forms of wickedness.
It has to be established that temptation is in itself not sin; and you should not feel guilty about having to deal with temptation. Jesus Himself was tempted in all points as we are, but yet He was without sin completely. He overcame all; and therefore He can help us to overcome too. It’s easy to feel guilty simply because you are tempted, especially regarding sexual sin, but that really is a false guilt which could keep you from the Lord at times when you most desperately need His aid. Don’t let that happen!
Hebrews 2:16-18: “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour (come to the aid of) them that are tempted.”
With that said, in regards to sexual temptation, everyone should study the Book of Proverbs where turning away from the seductive and promiscuous is repeatedly mentioned as a chief necessity and benefit of heeding the wisdom of God’s Word and choosing to walk in the Lord’s ways. This is something that no natural learning nor discipline can guarantee to keep its adherents from being harmed by, as it is an area where natural passions and the heat of the moment can overcome the most naturally strong-willed, most naturally disciplined person. However when we take the Lord at His Word and therefore approach this area with godly fear and sincere prayer to Christ (i.e. the real Jesus of the Bible) to help us overcome, there is a drive to resist this and a strength available to resist this that those who don’t fear the Lord properly won’t have.
Proverbs 7:21-27: “With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life. Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth. Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.”
Hebrews 13:4: “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” That includes all who are sexually in any way.
When we are tempted in any area we should call on Christ in truth to come to our aid (Hebrews 2:18), submitting to Him and taking the heart the misery that pleasing ourselves and yielding to temptation will bring, as well as the glory of resurrection that taking up the cross and following Him will end in (Romans 8:17-18, etc). We should rightly consider these things in our decisions and know that godliness has the promise of this life; and especially of the life to come in eternity, though it be through denying ourselves sin’s momentary pleasure (1 Timothy 4:8-11); while ungodliness in yielding to sin causes bad consequences in this life (Proverbs 11:31); and especially in eternity (Galatians 5:19-21, etc).
When Harmed by Other People- There is such a thing as harm inflicted from a malicious enemy of God who will surely be punished severely by God if they don’t repent. There is also a way to be harmed by others in very hard and/or complicated circumstances, which may not be so black and white from our perspective in terms of the level of their guilt in the matter. We see this all in 2 Timothy chapter 4. The contrasts here at least prove that harm from others can be a complicated thing; and surely not all who might harm us are proper to put into the same category.
2 Timothy 4:14-16: “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words (that is one category). At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge (that is surely another category).”
So regardless of the level of maliciousness of the source, and regardless of how directly the harm came, a Christian can indeed be harmed by others. Yet there is no harm that God cannot overrule and reverse in time, working for the good of the one who stays faithful to Him (and that is what 1 Peter 3:13 means). And there is also no harm from others which needs to spiritually destroy us and that God cannot provide the grace in the present to overcome. These things are also seen in the following verses in 2 Timothy chapter 4.
Paul said this much as he continued in 2 Timothy 4:17-18: “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Christians who stay faithful to Christ for any significant period of time will have enemies who seek to harm them- and who probably will succeed in harming them some. Armed with God’s promises though, they can walk forward in the truth, trusting God to uphold them in the present and to deliver them eventually, confident in ultimate relief and triumph. As the serpent bruised Christ’s heel, yet will be crushed and demolished in its head by the resurrected Jesus (see our Genesis chapter 3 study for more detail here), so the Christian who is bruised in the heel (that is, brought to hurt, brought to pain in this life), in their faithful identification with Christ, can therein confidently trust that he/she will partake of Christ’s resurrection and His victory over the serpent and all his servants- especially those who deliberately sought to turn them from the Lord and/or deliberately sought to harm them otherwise.
Isaiah 54:17: “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness (i.e. justification) is of me, saith the Lord.” BTW: This does not apply to smooth talking, money loving, Bible twisting preachers who like to quote this verse (i.e. twist this verse) to vilify their critics. Such are rather servants of the devil whom God Himself will judge severely and condemn, since their end will be according to their works (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
Romans 8:35-39: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And do make sure that you are under His Lordship; submitted to do everything He commands, in agreement with His judgments in the Bible- calling good, good; and calling evil, evil- dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God, willing to suffer unto death to keep His Word. These promises are only for those who are truly so in God’s eyes.Psalm 37:1-11 & 38-40 (the entire Psalm gives so many great promises and fits perfectly with this topic- I could only choose select portions of it here- I encourage you to read it all): “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart (which will be righteous and not corrupt if you truly delight yourself in the Lord). Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be (by the way, this isn’t teaching that the wicked will be totally annihilated, since the Bible is clear that those who die in wickedness as God’s enemies will burn in the eternal lake of fire; it is rather teaching that the wicked will have no part in the new heavens and the new earth which the righteous will inherit, though it can apply also to the wicked being rooted out of the earth in this life through God’s judgment). But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace… But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off. But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.”
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