"...so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them."- 1Th 3:3
What were the trials that Paul was referring to here?
In chapter 2 Paul writes, "For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out."
He then writes in chapter 4, "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope."
The Thessalonian church had experienced persecution from those who did not belong to the church. The persecution could've been harsh enough to have caused the death of some of the members. Paul wanted to remind the members to expect suffering perhaps because the forces of evil were out in full strength here at the end of time (cf. 2:18; 5:1-11).
Today, we can still expect suffering since tribulation has been the experience of the church throughout the ages. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33). But we can count on God to be preserved through trials and tribulations. There is no promise that persecution and suffering will not come, but rather that they will not prevail over us.
Paul wrote that God would supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19). Writing those words from prison, Paul indicated that he had learned to be content in any state in which he found himself (v. 11). He had learned the secret of facing either plenty and abundance or hunger and want (v. 12); he could do all things through the Lord who strengthened him (v.13).
When faced with various forms of suffering, we ought to rejoice that we have been counted worthy of it (Act 5:41; Rom 5:3; 2Co 12:10; Col 1:11; Heb 10:34; Jam 1:2; ect.). Knowing that suffering is a way for us to be made perfect just as Jesus was. We see this clearly in the life of Jesus, who, though he was without sin, yet "learned obedience through what he suffered" (Heb 5:8). He was made perfect "through suffering" (Heb 2:10). Therefore, we should see all the hardship and suffering that comes to us in life as something that God brings to us to do us good, strengthening our trust in Him and our obedience, and ultimately increasing our ability to glorify Him.
What kind of suffering have you experienced? How do you feel spiritually during times of suffering? Do you feel God's presence more acutely or do you feel alone? Do you lean into prayer or do you lean into the world? Let us know! We'd love to hear about your struggles as well as your victories! God Bless!
Ehrman, Bart. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction (pg. 284). Oxford University Press.