If you read the letters of the New Testament, you will find that a number of them are written to Christians who are in very difficult circumstances. There are lots of prayers for God to strengthen them as they go through their circumstances. What you will not find are prayers of the Apostles for God to remove them from those circumstances. You never hear Paul, Peter, James, or John say things like, “I am so sorry to hear about the persecution you are suffering, I pray that God will stop it, remove it, or show you a way out of it.”
Now, I’m just making the observation. I’m not saying it is never appropriate to ask for God to relieve us from suffering, all you have to do is read the Psalms to figure out that is well within a biblical view of prayer. But it is interesting isn’t it? So often when we are faced with painful, confusing, or difficult the first thing we do is start praying for God to take it away. But what I have been learning is that sometimes these times are not brought on by our being outside of God’s will, sometimes it is brought on because we are in God’s will. Sometimes we find ourselves in lousy situations because God is using it grow us in a particular way.
Somethings are only learned in adversity. Forgiveness, patience, longsuffering, controlling your anger, being merciful, and being compassionate are only learned in lousy, painful, and adverse situations. And then there are those two major lessons that we need to be constantly learning: that we are not and were never meant to be enough; and that Jesus is enough, and that in Jesus we will always have enough. Those lessons—lessons that grow faith, hope, and trust in God—are only learned when we find ourselves faced with situations where it is painfully clear that we are not enough and that if Jesus does not come through we are sunk.
If it becomes clear that God is not answering your prayers to rescue you from suffering, pray that He will give you the strength to bear up in it, to lean into Him, to trust that He will give you everything you need. Pray that He will give you discernment to see the things that the suffering is meant to teach you, or the ways in which He wants to use that suffering to grow you so that you become more like Him. Remember what Jesus said, “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, NIV).