When you’re in the fire it isn’t really the time to interpret. You just hang on for dear life and unashamedly cling to the goodness of God. You won’t be giving an account about how well you interpreted God’s actions. But we will be held to account for how we clung to Jesus even when things didn’t exactly make sense.
You’ve had those moments, haven’t you, when God is doing something that doesn’t seem to make a bit of sense? After the experience you are left to pick up the pieces and you’re wracked with confusion and discouragement and a flood of emotions that you can’t even comprehend. Where in the world was God in all this?
It’s one thing to experience that type of suffering that we’re all prone to experience. Death of a loved one. Jarring news. Bitter disappointment. It’s quite another when we are hit in our very souls. When the very place in which we typically meet God with joy turns into a place of bitter anguish. That’s what happened to the Thessalonians. They were baby Christians being disciples by the great apostle Paul. Things were going splendid and then all of a sudden he was gone.
They were left alone.
After months go by that would certainly prove taxing. You’d begin to wonder if they were just those drive-by preachers who share truth that rocks your world and then they pick up and never come see you again.
Discipleship is important to God. So why did he leave the Thessalonians without one to disciple them?
That’s a question that kind of hangs over Thessalonians. And it’s a question that Paul needed to answer as he wrote to them. In 1 Thessalonians 2:17—3:13 I see at least six positive things which God has brought out of their season of suffering.
1. It set their eyes on eternity. (2:19) Suffering exposes our theology and it reveals to us where we are really setting our hope. Suffering has a way of propelling us to look forward to the day when we stand before Christ.