One of the universal characteristics of the virtuous lives of the saints was their seemingly inexhaustible capacity to endure in times of great tribulation and danger. Oftentimes, the difference between sainthood and spiritual failure could be attributed to the gift of patience for which they fervently prayed, and which they put to such good use in their struggles. They never ceased to remember the wonderful admonition of St. Paul who wrote that we “need to be patient, in order to do the will of God and receive what he promises” (Hebrews 10:36).
In contrast to their wonderful example, we are often quick to abandon our commitment to serve Christ at the first sign of trouble. In Jesus’ wonderful parable of the sower, he describes the various responses that people have to the gospel message. A person, for example, may seem to accept God’s promise, but he stumbles in his faith when difficulties arise (Matt. 13:20-21). He is unmindful of the apostle’s warning that “My righteous people will believe and live; but if any of them turns back, I will not be pleased with him. We are not people who turn back and are lost. Instead, we have faith and are saved” (Hebrews 10:38-39).
We can only marvel at the complete honesty of our Lord Jesus Christ who did not hide from us the fact that the way of discipleship was also often the way of suffering. In his invitation to the Apostles, he said, “If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget himself, carry his own cross, and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). With these words, He makes it clear to us that faith is not a way to avoid suffering, as much as it is a way of enduring the inevitable pain that will come to our lives. For the mature Christian, faith is not an escape from tribulation; but rather a gracious gift that in the time of testing, allows him to continue to trust in the goodness of a loving God.