Edward Polhill, in A Preparation for Suffering in an Evil Day , explains that faith must not merely look to Christ as a pattern – no, Christ is far more. Christ does not call us to suffer and then fail to give us grace in our affliction. A great reason for suffering is to bring us to a point where we realize that we cannot continue on our own:
8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.2 Corinthians 1:8–11 (ESV)
God draws us out of depth, like a partner who draws a child into the deep before they can swim. But unlike the parent, God does not seek our independence from him, rather, God seeks our dependence upon him. Unlike the child in the pool, we are not called to learn to swim on our own. God seeks that we should cling more tightly to him so that we might be saved.
We are not created to save ourselves. We are creatures who exist for our Creator. Trials our meant to test our faith (1 Pet. 1:7) that the faith may be more secure – not that we may become independent of God. Sometimes God eases the trial – and in other times he permits the trial to stand, that we have no choice but to consciously and continuously rest upon faith in his grace:
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 (ESV)
Thus, in trials the best course is not a Stoic self-determination, not an iron will. In affliction the best course is to fly to the One whose strength surpasses all strength who grace is sufficient: for when we are weakest – that is most dependent – then we are most strong:
Faith looks to Christ as a head and helper. He is not a mere pattern, but a head and helper too. Were there no other supporting grace for the saints but that little in their own bosom, they might expect to fail in the trial; but there is an inexhaustible fountain of grace in their head in heaven, and that will bear them up in all their sufferings. This made St. Paul glory in persecutions, because the power of Christ would rest upon him; and when he was weak in himself, he was strong in that, (2 Cor. 12:9, 10). St. Cyprian, speaking of Christ in the martyrs, saith, Qui pro nobis mortem semel vicit, semper vincit in nobis; he that once overcame death for us, always overcomes it in us. This the martyr Blandina, though weak in body, found by experience; being bore up in the midst of torments by the power of Christ, and finding a fresh refreshment, as often as she said, Christiana sum, I am a christian. The same was seen in the Martyr Sanctus, who bore various torments above all human strength, because he was bedewed and confirmed out of the celestial fountain of living water flowing down from Christ. Whatever thou doest, O christian, be sure to apply thyself by faith unto the never-failing fountain of grace in him, that thou mayest have such supplies of grace, as may bear thee up in an evil day.
Edward Polhill, The Works of Edward Polhill (London: Thomas Ward and Co., 1844), 343.