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Expect Problems in Your Life

Don’t be surprised when you have problems

Doug Britton, MFT

Part 1 of a 4-part series on “Growing through Problems”

Part 2      Part 3      Part 4

Don’t be surprised by problems

Many people think life will be problem-free after they become Christians. They feel surprised or even betrayed by God if they go through hard times.

If you experience hardship, persecution, or illness, you may think that you are not close to God or that God is angry with you. You may assume that if God is with you, he will always protect you from going through difficulties.

In this Bible study, you will read how to respond to typical problems that are part of every believer’s life.

Discussion question

1. What are your expectations? Do you think God will protect you from going through difficulties? Why or why not?

People in the Old Testament went through hard times

In the Old Testament, we read about many people who were blessed and delivered by God. However, we also read about people who faced hardships of many kinds.

Many of these Old Testament stories are briefly summarized in Hebrews, a book in the New Testament. In its pages, we read about people who experienced God’s blessing and deliverance from danger (Hebrews 11:32-35).

But we also read about people who were tortured, ridiculed, flogged, chained and imprisoned, stoned, sawed in two, killed by the sword, made destitute, persecuted, and mistreated. Some wandered in deserts and mountains and lived in caves and holes in the ground (Hebrews 11:35-38).

People in the New Testament went through hard times

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). He offered us his love (John 15:9), joy (John 15:11), and peace (John 14:27).

Although Jesus came to bless us, he did not guarantee a trouble-free life. Let’s look at a few examples of hardships experienced by people in the New Testament, starting with Jesus himself.

Jesus experienced many extremely hard times.

Although Jesus was (and is) the Son of God, he faced many hardships and trials when he was on the earth. For example:

  • He did not own a home (Matthew 8:20).
  • His friends deserted him (Matthew 26:14-16, 69-75).
  • Most people loved him for what they could get, not for himself (Matthew 14:13 and Luke 6:17-19).
  • He was falsely accused (Matthew 12:22-24 and Mark 14:57-59).
  • He was tortured (Matthew 27:27-31).
  • He was crucified (Matthew 27:32-50).
  • He bore our sins upon himself (Luke 24:45-47).

Related: Healing Life’s Hurts 

Paul had many severe problems.

Paul, a man who wrote much of the New Testament, also experienced much suffering. These passages describe some of his hardships:

To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world – right up to this moment. (1 Corinthians 4:11-13)

I have … been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from the Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)

Discussion question

2. Re-read the above passages. Did Paul ever go through hard times? What can you learn from his example?

Many of Jesus’ other followers had severe problems.

Many more people in the New Testament experienced suffering. For example:

  • Religious leaders flogged the disciples (Acts 5:40-42).
  • Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:57-60).
  • Most of the Christians in Jerusalem were driven from their homes and out of the city (Acts 8:1).
  • James was killed by the sword (Acts 12:2).
  • Paul and Silas were unfairly accused, beaten, jailed, and put in stocks (Acts 16:19-24).
  • The Thessalonian church went through severe suffering (1 Thessalonians 1:6 and 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5).

Discussion question

3. Did these people suffer because they did something wrong? Explain your answer.

You will go through difficult times

Although God often protects us from harm and delivers us when we are in danger, he does not promise us a trouble-free life. In fact, we can expect problems, disappointments, and mistreatment. Read what Jesus told his followers:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

I love the way Jesus said we can take heart and know his peace even though we have trouble in the world. You will read more about this wonderful promise in part two of this Bible study. But first let’s look at a few more passages that tell us believers will go through difficult times:

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household! (Matthew 10:21-25)

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him. (Philippians 1:29)

We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)

Discussion question

4. If you are fired, get sick, have family struggles, or go through other types of hard times, does that mean God doesn’t love you? Explain your answer.

Be prepared for problems.

Since God has warned that you will go through hard times, don’t be surprised when you go through them. If you think Christians should not experience serious problems, you are setting yourself up for disappointment, depression, and anger.

As you go through life:

  • People may disappoint you.
  • Your finances may get worse.
  • You may lose your house.
  • Your health may suffer.
  • People you love may go through hard times.
  • You might be fired or have trouble finding a good job.
  • A close friend or spouse may reject you.
  • You may be persecuted for your faith.

Related: Don’t take things personally

Don’t live with the constant fear that things won’t work out.

There’s no need to go through life constantly fearing that you are about to suffer at any moment. But it’s wise to realize that disappointments and problems inevitably will come your way. If you expect them, you are better prepared to respond in a godly manner.

Discussion questions

5. How can knowing that disappointment and hardships are part of life help you avoid becoming discouraged or depressed?

6. How would you like to respond when you go through hard times?

Memory verse

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Make it personal

1. Can Christians expect to go through difficult times? Why or why not?

2. What were some of the problems Jesus experienced?

3. What were some of the problems Paul experienced?

4. Compare your problems to Paul’s. Are your problems worse than Paul’s? Explain your answer.

5. If someone disappoints you, does that mean he or she is not a Christian? Why or why not?

6. Why is it a good idea to expect that sometimes you will go through hard times?

7. If you go through a hard time, does that mean God is angry with you? Why or why not?

8. What are some problems you are facing right now?

Pray, asking God to help you deal with these problems.

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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