It was a surprise visit from an unwelcome visitor. I didn’t know that on October 19, 2014, Mr. Hardship would knock on my door, barge his way in, and take residence in the most intimate rooms of my life.
And I didn’t have any idea how his presence would fundamentally change so many things in my life.
I watched Mr. Hardship go from room to room, rearranging everything. I wondered what life would be like if and when he finally left. If I could have, I would have evicted this unwanted stranger. But I failed in all my attempts, and I could no longer deny the fact that he was here to stay.
I spent way too much time asking questions. Why had he knocked on my door? Why had he chosen this particular moment? I never got clear answers to my questions.
Sure, I had known that Mr. Hardship was out there, and I had heard the stories of how he had entered other people’s doors, but somehow I didn’t think it would happen to me.
Embarrassment washed over me as I thought of the silly platitudes and empty answers I had casually given people when they’d been caught in the confusing drama I was now in. And I thought about how foolish I’d been to believe that this unwanted stranger - who, somehow, someway, enters everyone’s door - would for some reason omit mine.
Once I realized that I couldn’t kick Mr. Hardship out of my life, I ran to the place where I have always found wisdom, hope, and rest of heart. I ran to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and in so doing, into the arms of my Savior.
As I dove into the narrative of the gospel, which is the core message of God’s Word, I realized something profoundly important and wonderfully comforting: I wasn’t unprepared after all.
I was equipped with:
- The message of God’s sovereign control over me
- The gospel’s honesty about life in this fallen world
- The comfort of the right-here, right-now presence and grace of the Savior
- The insight into the spiritual war that rages in my heart
I am no longer angry or discouraged that Mr. Hardship entered my door unexpectedly that day. Although I still struggle with the pain and weakness that he has left me with, I know that I am better off because of his presence.
No, I don’t like the travail of pain or loss any more than you do, but in my suffering, a miraculous thing happened: Mr. Hardship became a tool of my Savior to produce beautiful fruit in me, fruit that I am sure could not have been produced any other way.
Sure, there are times I get tired and wish he’d up and leave, but I don’t get despondent. I know I haven’t been ignored or forsaken, because long before Mr. Hardship entered my door, my Savior had taken permanent residence in my life.
Through all of this drama, I have not been left alone to deal with Mr. Hardship on my own. My Savior has been with me, for me, and in me, and he works to take very bad things and produce through them very, very good things.
Paul David Tripp
P.S. - If you want to read more about my sickness and what the Bible has to say about Mr. Hardship, you may be interested in my new book, Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn't Make Sense.
- Have you ever been visited by Mr. Hardship? Is he currently an unwelcome guest in your house right now?
- If Mr. Hardship has not visited, are there ways in which you think you are exempt from his future visit?
- How has Mr. Hardship rearranged your life? In the process, what has he uncovered about how you view life, yourself, and God?
- Why is it a bad idea to try and deny the reality of Mr. Hardship in your life? What gospel-centered messages can you preach to yourself in the midst of the reality that is your suffering?
- Who do you know who is currently being visited by Mr. Hardship? How can you strive to provide more than "silly platitudes and empty answers" to those who are suffering?