“The Bible assures us of many things, but it never promises that we won’t be slammed with overwhelming hardship.” (Leslie Vernick)
This felt like a punch in the face when I first read it, in fact it still does. The context of the quote is a passage refuting the idea that, ‘God never gives us more than we can handle’.
I think that idea is probably an out-of-context distortion of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which is in fact referring to temptation to sin, specifically idolatry, rather than any promise of endurance through hardship. Jesus said we will encounter hardship (John 16:33) and wisdom confirms this (Ecclesiastes 11:8). Realistically, Christians are not promised specially favourable treatment in this world, unless you count persecution as ‘special treatment’ (John 15:20).
So where is the hope? If being a Christian offers no guarantee of safety in this world and carries the burden of annoying everyone who doesn’t believe in God, then what’s the point? Why put faith in someone (Jesus) you can’t see to gain something (heaven) you cannot have until after you’re dead?
This is where understanding what we stand to gain as Christians makes all the difference – my hope is not primarily focused on a ticket to heaven, my hope and goal is Jesus Christ. That’s it. Ultimately, nothing else matters to me if I can be included amongst those who are given the right to become children of God (John 1:12-13).
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8 ESV)