10 Key Bible Verses on Hardship

This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.

You Will Have Trouble

It is a guarantee that we will have trouble in this world as Jesus himself did. But, with his power and presence in our lives, we are called to endure and thus shine the light of Christ in a dark world. Be encouraged by these passages and commentary from the ESV Study Bible.

1. Romans 8:35–39

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Read More

As it is written. The quotation from Psalm 44:22 shows that the difficulties listed in Romans 8:35 do strike Christians. They are not exempted from suffering or even from being killed.

Christians are more than conquerors, because God turns everything—even suffering and death—into good. For I am sure. Paul answers the question he raised in Romans 8:35 with absolute certainty that nothing can ever sever God’s people from his love . . . in Christ. Rulers and powers here likely refer to angelic and demonic authorities.

2. John 16:33

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. Read More

In the midst of the suffering and hardship that was to come, Jesus’ disciples, and all following them, can have such “peace” in fellowship with Christ. Fittingly, Jesus’ Farewell Discourse (John 13:31–16:33) ends on a note of triumph (cf. 1 John 2:13–14; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:4–5).

3. 2 Corinthians 6:3–10

We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. Read More

we commend ourselves in every way. Not only through victories and triumphs but also by the way he endures hardship, Paul gives testimony to the truthfulness of his apostolic ministry. The glory of the gospel shines forth from a Christian’s life in the way he responds to suffering and opposition. by great endurance. Paul’s divinely enabled endurance is his general testimony to the power of the Spirit in his life and ministry (2 Cor. 3:3–8; see 2 Cor. 12:12), which is then illustrated by the specific examples that follow (2 Cor. 6:4b–10). servants of God. As a minister (Gk. diakonos) of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6), Paul is a servant (Gk. diakonos) of God.

Weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left is best seen as a reference to the spiritual weapons God provides (see Eph. 6:11), perhaps meaning one for offense, usually a sword (on the right; see Eph. 6:17), and one for defense, usually a shield (on the left; see Eph. 6:16). Others understand Paul’s phrase not as limited to two weapons but as a way of saying that he is fully equipped with spiritual power for any situation.

4. 2 Timothy 1:7–10

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel . . . Read More

spirit. Probably the Holy Spirit. fear. The Greek (deilia) in extrabiblical literature refers to one who flees from battle, and has a strong pejorative sense referring to cowardice. Boldness, not cowardice, is a mark of the Spirit (see Prov. 28:1; Acts 4:31).

These verses summarize the gospel for which God’s servants suffer. They are a reminder of the power of God on whom Christians rely. Paul’s exalted language suggests he is also arguing that such a glorious message is worthy of their suffering. Paul contrasts works, which do not save, with God’s purpose and grace, which brings life. God, who saved us . . . our Savior Christ Jesus. In the Pastoral Epistles, Paul often describes both God the Father and God the Son as Saviors of their people (cf. 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; 4:10; Titus 1:3–4; Titus 2:10; Titus 2:13; Titus 3:4, 6).

5. 2 Corinthians 12:9–10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Read More

My grace is sufficient. Paul says that God’s grace “is sufficient” (in the present tense), underscoring the ever-present availability and sufficiency of God’s grace, for Paul and for every believer, regardless of how critical one’s circumstances may be (cf. Rom. 8:31–39). *my power is made perfect in weakness. Paul was not allowed to speak about his heavenly revelations (2 Cor. 12:4, 6), but he quotes Christ’s declaration (“My grace is sufficient”) to underscore that his earthly weaknesses (not his revelations) would be the platform for perfecting and demonstrating the Lord’s power. This is the main point of 2 Corinthians 12:1–13 and the foundation of Paul’s self-defense throughout 2 Corinthians.

6. James 1:2–4

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Read More

Trials are “tests” that challenge faith (James 1:2–5). When trials occur, one should count it all joy—not meaning mere worldly, temporal happiness, but rather spiritual, enduring, “complete joy” in the Lord who is sovereign over all things, including trials.

Testing of your faith defines the meaning of a trial for the Christian: as Jesus was “tested” in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1–13), so believers are tested. The Greek dokimion (“testing”) denotes a positive test intended to make one’s faith “genuine” (cf. 1 Pet. 1:7). The result is steadfastness, a life of faithful endurance amid troubles and afflictions.

Steadfastness leads ultimately to perfection. Believers grow in holiness but are not yet perfected in it; such perfection will be realized only when Jesus returns.

7. 1 Peter 5:9–10

Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. Read More

Resist him. Christians need not fear the devil, for the Lord has given them power to stand against him by being firm in your faith (cf. Eph. 6:12–18). Trusting in God’s promises, believers know that suffering is not the final word and that ultimately they will be exalted (cf. James 4:7). The suffering experienced by the believers in northern Asia Minor is not unique to them, for it is the portion of believers everywhere (your brotherhood throughout the world). Hence, they can take courage that they are not alone. Though “throughout the world” does not indicate an empire-wide decree against Christians in Peter’s day, Christians who suffer in any age can be assured that they are not alone in their distress.

a little while. includes the period of time beginning with Christ’s ascension (cf. Acts 1:6–11) until Christ comes again at the end of the age. From God’s perspective, one’s time in this world is notably brief (cf. James 4:14; 2 Pet. 3:8). Thus, no matter how long or intense one’s suffering may be, it will be short compared to the joys of eternity. Four verbs (restore, confirm, strengthen, establish) remind believers that God will eventually restore whatever they have lost for the sake of Christ. Though suffering will come first, it will be followed by eternal glory. The God who effectually called believers by his grace will fortify them with his strength, so that they are able to endure to the end.

8. Psalm 34:17

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles. Read More

The Lord cares for his faithful ones—i.e., it does not recount specific instances as Psalm 34:4–7 do. There is also a stress here on the difference between the way God treats the faithful and the wicked. The Hebrew expressions brokenhearted and crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18) refer to the pride and stubbornness in one’s heart being humbled (cf. Psalm 51:17; Psalm 69:20; Psalm 147:3). The psalm is clear that both the righteous and the wicked will have afflictions (see the repetition in 34:19, 21); the difference is in the outcomes (none . . . condemned, Psalm 34:22; and condemned, Psalm 34:21). It is possible that John 19:36 has combined Psalm 34:20 (he keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken) with Exodus 12:46 to emphasize that Jesus was not only the Passover Lamb but also a righteous sufferer whom God would vindicate.

9. 2 Corinthians 4:8–12

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Read More

afflicted. . . but not crushed. These verses show the paradox of living as a believer in the present evil age. Paul is always being given over by God to death for Jesus’ sake so that the power of the resurrection life of Jesus (experienced in Paul’s ability to endure adversity and in the powerful spread of the gospel in spite of opposition) might be made known in the weakness of his mortal flesh (see 2 Cor. 4:7). Paul’s suffering and endurance are intended to bring about this same resurrection life among the Corinthians as they too learn to trust God amid adversity (see 2 Cor. 1:6–7).

10. Hebrews 12:1–3

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Read More

Given past examples of faith (Heb. 11) and of Jesus’ own endurance of the cross (Heb. 12:1–2), Christians are to run with endurance the race of faith, knowing that God disciplines his children for their good (Heb. 12:3–11). The readers are thus also cautioned against rejecting God’s grace (Heb. 12:2–17, 25), since (in comparison with lesser yet still awesome events at Mount Sinai) the overwhelming final judgment will surely come, when God will fully establish his rule and when all the saints will join the great heavenly celebration.

perfecter. Through his atoning work, Christ’s perfection leads to the perfection of his people (which will be realized fully on the last day). for the joy that was set before him endured. The cross of Christ represents the greatest suffering in history, for Jesus not only suffered physically but also experienced God’s just wrath in taking upon himself the sin of the world. Still, the promise of future reward and joy gave Jesus strength to suffer.despising the shame. Crucifixion, performed naked and in public, and inflicting prolonged pain on the victim, was intended to cause shame as well as death (Heb. 6:6). Earthly trials actually testify to the fatherly discipline of God. Such trials call for a response of endurance, and the author cautions against rejection of this character training.

All commentary sections adapted from the ESV Study Bible.

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