Picture someone you know well who isn’t a Christian. As they watch you walk through suffering, what do they see? What do they hear? What are you communicating to them about the hope you have?

Suffering can be distracting. It can embitter the spirit, harden the heart, and paralyze the will. Turning us inward, it often keeps us from seeing opportunities God is placing around us to love others and share the gospel. At times, we’re tempted to forego proclaiming Christ because we’re defeated by sin, exhausted from bodily pain, or emotionally spent from attempts to reconcile broken relationships. Suffering seems to require all our attention and effort as it drains us of resources. We feel we have nothing left to give. 

Paul writes that we’re brittle “jars of clay” (2 Cor. 4:7). And our cracks exist for a purpose: to shine forth the gospel, our treasured possession even—especially—in our pain. We display and proclaim his light through our unique “cracks.” And what an opportunity this is.

While chained in a Roman prison, Paul wrote to the Colossian Christians:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Col. 4:2–6)

Notice where Paul is as he writes: in prison. He’s suffering. And yet it seems he’s increasingly empowered by his situation, not defeated by it. His physical chains have encouraged him to keep proclaiming the truth that’s spiritually unchained him! 

In Christ’s light, suffering is a ministry, not a millstone. It’s a gift, not a glitch in the plan.

Imprisoned, yet empowered. In prison, yet prayerful. Imprisoned, yet bold. This is not an embittered, hardened, paralyzed man. Paul is not distracted. No, he knows his persecutions and “cracks” are opportunities for gospel outpouring, not obstacles to hide.

In Christ’s light, suffering is a ministry, not a millstone. It’s a gift, not a glitch in the plan.

Can you see your suffering as a unique opportunity to proclaim the mystery of Christ to unbelievers? They’re watching you, and they’re listening to you. What are they seeing and hearing?

People Are Watching

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time” (Col. 4:5). What does it look like for a suffering Christian to walk wisely around outsiders? Unbelievers are watching how we suffer. They’re answering the basic questions of hope: “How is this person able to endure? How well can their belief system bear the pressure of an unasked-for turn? Does their joy survive in suffering?”

When life is going well, Christian joy and worldly happiness are hard to distinguish from each other. But when life is falling apart, and worldly happiness has long since fled, Christian joy can shine forth clearly and uniquely. Since the world sees suffering as a negative thing, we have an enormous opportunity to catch people off-guard and make them question their understanding of affliction, as well as how a person is able to persevere through it.

When life is falling apart, and worldly happiness has long since fled, Christian joy can shine forth clearly and uniquely.

But how is this joy produced?

Paul says that the first key to displaying the gospel through our actions is watchful, thankful prayer. Any display of the truth to others starts at the feet of Jesus. We cannot give to others what we don’t possess ourselves. So we draw near to God in prayer because needing him is our natural state, and knowing and serving him is our greatest delight.

People Are Listening

The second key to displaying the gospel involves entering into grace-filled, clear conversation with people. We proclaim our answer to the world’s question of hope: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6).

You may have no better platform from which to proclaim God’s grace in the gospel than that of your own suffering. Your conversations about struggles and pain can be surprisingly full of grace—talking about God’s grace and speaking with grace to others.

Your conversations can also be full of salt, full of interest in other people—not focused entirely on your suffering. Salty conversation raises questions, and then you can answer people in ways that point to God’s goodness and, supremely, the gospel.

Light Pours Through Cracks

As I write this, my husband, sister, and I are awaiting my parents’ surprise 30th anniversary party. The plans have been months in the making, and the guest list is set. Tonight, a group of friends will gather at their home, and I imagine we’ll have conversations about work, marriage, family, and health. So I’ve been thinking, What will I say if they ask how I’ve been feeling lately? What hope will I communicate to them?

I could pretend everything is fine, or I could act as though I’m completely discouraged.

I could talk about areas of regression as devastating setbacks, or as strangely wrapped gifts from my Father’s hand.

Christ has freed me from the chains of a self-focused, sin-bound life, even when the physical chains of suffering are still very real. He’s entrusted me with the mystery of the gospel, and he intends for it to pour through my “cracks” as my life and words showcase his glory to those around me.

What about you?

By God’s grace, your suffering is a ministry—the light of the gospel streaming through the “cracks” of your affliction into the heads and hearts of those watching. The way you suffer speaks volumes. May it speak loudly of the gospel even when it hurts, and of the God who brought us hope through suffering himself.


Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton’s new book, Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering (The Good Book Company, 2017).