“But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also” (Acts 23:11).
In Acts 22, Paul experienced physical beatings and was taken into custody by the Roman soldiers, thanks to the Jews from Asia who started the riot. Before the Council, he was hit in the mouth and was taken by force by the Roman soldiers because they were afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces because of the commotion (Acts 23:1-10).
During that night at the barracks, Paul must have recalled what took place during the day. Suddenly, Christ appeared and stood at his side, giving him words of comfort. The Lord said, “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also” (Acts 23:11). Notice how the Lord did not guarantee deliverance from the troubles he was facing. Instead, the Lord encouraged him to continue to be strong as His witness for the gospel not only in Jerusalem but also in Rome.
Paul has been through a lot in his life. He described the things he went through as an apostle of Christ in his letter to the Corinthians, saying, “…with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure (2 Corinthians 11:23b-27).
During trials, we often end up asking the Lord the timeless question “why” and we beg for mercy that He may take away the burden from us. We also tend to look with envy upon those who, despite their rejection of God, appear to prosper in life (Cf. Psalm 73).
The Lord Jesus has not promised to take us “out” of the difficulties we face. Instead He has promised us His presence as we encounter the challenges of being His witnesses for the gospel. For this reason, no matter the hardship, we can always find comfort knowing that Christ will be there for us (Matthew 28:20).