One way we tend to judge whether we’re walking in God’s will is by the outcome. The assumption is that when we’re doing what the Lord wants, life will run smoothly. But if all sorts of problems and heartaches occur, we often assume we must have wandered away from His will.
But Paul teaches that is not always the case. In 1 Corinthians 16:9, he writes, “For a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” And that’s exactly what happened when God closed one door and opened another on the apostle’s second missionary journey. (See Acts 16:6-10.) After Lydia and her household received the gospel, this new opportunity must have seemed hopeful. However, a short time later Paul and Silas, having been stripped and beaten with rods, found themselves sitting in a Philippian jail.
We don’t like to think God’s will for our life might include pain, suffering, or persecution, but that’s what Scripture teaches. The Lord uses affliction to test our faith, teach dependence on Him, develop godly character and spiritual maturity, and equip us to comfort others (Rom. 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 1:4). But He also uses our suffering to draw others to Christ. It’s doubtful the jailer would have been so ready to accept the gospel if Paul and Silas had not responded to their unfair treatment by singing hymns of praise to God.
When the Lord opens a door of suffering in our life, it’s an opportunity for unbelievers to witness God at work in us. Instead of trying to escape, let’s learn to respond in a manner that draws others to the Savior.