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Seeing someone struggle through a situation you’ve experienced before, it’s completely natural to want to reassure them it won’t last forever. In hindsight, we see our own growth that came from adversity. But not all experiences are universal, and an outcome that you think is worth suffering for may not be worth anything for someone else.

Telling someone their struggle will result in a positive outcome is not only dismissive of their pain, but also raises their expectation for an earthly, proportionate reward. Life doesn’t happen transactionally; you don’t evaluate the cost and ROI of every crisis or difficulty and decide what you’re willing to live through.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces.” James 1:2-4

This is something that is easy to say and hard to hear, even from someone like James who faced more than enough of his own trials. Is he being dismissive? Is he trying to comfort, or is he trying to teach?

When we view trials as a ‘cost’ for a later prize, our relationship with God becomes transactional. Our actions become motivated in attaining or earning a reward, instead of humility and obedience. Then we wonder what is the point of suffering if we don’t see any results.

But longsuffering, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, is endurance. It’s an ability to bear hardship without an end in sight. Our faith in God can not be dependent on the assumption that every negative experience comes with an equally positive one. There are going to be times when nothing seems worth the pain you’ll feel.

Scriptures promise blessings on those who are faithful, whether it’s a crown of life or eternity with Jesus. It isn’t wrong to anticipate those blessings, or find comfort in their eventual appearance. But equating those with earthly rewards sets up impossible expectations and invites frustration for our lives as they are now.

Emily Luttrull