It always a little perplexing to find two things side by side that we wouldn’t expect to go together. Take the snow we had a few weeks back as an example–you just don’t expect to see snow against the backdrop of lush, green grass. Something about it just seems odd, but God isn’t all that concerned about fitting into our expectations. In fact, we often find Him putting things side by side that we wouldn’t expect to go together.
Paul covers a lot of ground in the opening chapter of 2 Thessalonians, some of that ground appearing to be very different, but even in the structure of his writing, he makes it clear that these things go together, even if it doesn’t seem like they would. In the original language, a single sentence spans the distance from verse 3 to verse 10, verses where Paul gushes with thanksgiving over the growing faith and increasing love of the Thessalonians, but then writes about the persecutions and afflictions they were enduring and the judgment to come. Which one is it? Were they flourishing, or were they afflicted? Paul’s inspired interpretation of this seeming juxtaposition is that their endurance in hardship was actually evidence of God’s grace in their lives and the justice He will ultimate deliver.
There are often things in our lives that we wouldn’t expect to go together, things we wouldn’t choose, but thankfully, God can bring about good things even in the midst of the hard things. He can grow our faith and increase our love through challenges others intended to diminish both. It doesn’t mean we need to go looking for trouble, but it does mean we need to pray for one another as Paul prayed for the Thessalonians: “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (ESV).