Let me tell you how and where Paul produced his epistles. He wrote them in dark prison cells. He wrote them after being scourged or having survived another shipwreck. He was intimately familiar with hardship and suffering.
Paul knew that all of the truth and revelation he taught came from the battlefield of faith, and he rejoiced in his afflictions for the gospel’s sake. He said, “Now I can preach with all authority to every prisoner who’s been locked up with no hope, to everybody who has ever looked death in the face. God’s Spirit is making me a tested veteran so I can speak his truth to everyone who has ears to hear.”
If you’re going through hardship, God hasn’t turned you over to the power of Satan. No, he’s allowing your trial because the Holy Spirit is performing an unseen work in you. Christ’s glory is being formed in you for all eternity. You’ll never get true spirituality from someone or something else. If you’re going to taste God’s glory, it’s going to have to come to you right where you are in your present circumstances, pleasant or unpleasant.
I believe one of the great secrets of Paul’s spirituality was his readiness to accept whatever condition he was in without complaining. He writes, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13, NKJV).
Paul is saying, “I don’t try to protect myself from my unpleasant circumstances. I don’t beg God for relief from them. On the contrary, I embrace them. I know from my history with the Lord that he’s doing something eternal in me.”
Our part in every trial is to trust God for all the power and resources we need to find contentment in the midst of our suffering. Please don’t misunderstand me. Being “content” in our trials doesn’t mean we enjoy them. It simply means we no longer try to protect ourselves from them. We are content to stay put and endure whatever is handed to us because we know our Lord is conforming us to the image of his Son.