Paul’s letter to the Church at Rome holds the answer to the question, how do we rejoice in suffering? To find the answer, read Romans 5:3-4 and pick out the keyword:
Rom 5:3-4 …we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
What word did you choose as the keyword? Was it “perseverance?” Because that’s what it takes to get to the end of suffering. Was it “character?” Because we must call upon our internal strength to endure suffering. Or, was it “hope?” Because perseverance plus character generates hope.
While all those words are important, and each is necessary, I would suggest that the keyword in Romans 5:3-4 is “knowing.”
No one wants to suffer. But as children of God, we are able to rejoice, even in times of suffering. Why? How? Because we know. We know that God always has a purpose in all things. We know that suffering is productive (that is, suffering accomplishes something). And we know that in those things God is working in and through us.
Three Things that Suffering Produces
- Perseverance (patience). The Greek word literally means “to abide under, or to stay under the pressure.” Suffering teaches us to turn to Jesus and to “hang in there.” Suffering produces a steadiness and patience for endurance.
- Character. The Greek word for “character” has the idea of being put to the test and approved. It means being shown to stand strong. People see strength in us when we suffer well, and they know they can count on us in spite of circumstances. Suffering produces strength for endurance.
- Hope. Hope is a confident expectation. Our hope is a certainty in knowing that we are being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29) and that we will share the glory of God. Suffering produces a Christ-centered and forward-focused mind for endurance.
To summarize, suffering produces a steadiness, a strength, and a sound mind — all of which are necessary for enduring difficult circumstances. But that’s only what suffering produces. What generates joy in times of suffering? It is knowing, believing, and trusting that suffering will produce those things…and so much more. That’s faith–a faith that suffering produces a closer and deeper relationship with the One who suffered and died for us, and a certainty of the promises He has given us.
Rom 5:2 By whom [Jesus] also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
We already stand in God’s grace, justified and made new, and therefore we rejoice in hope (confident expectation) of glory to come. We are being made more like Jesus — more thoughtful, more compassionate, more loving, more generous, etc. (Read: How Can I Love Like Jesus?)We are becoming stronger, wiser, purer, kinder, more patient, more understanding, and so much more. And so we are able to rejoice in difficult times of pain and suffering as well as in good and restful times. We can endure suffering, as Jesus did, knowing the joy that lies before us.
Heb 12:2 … who [Jesus] for the joy that was set before him endured the cross...
The Key to Suffering Well
The key to suffering well is not only knowing what you need to know. It’s also knowing it before the suffering comes. This is the renewing of the mind that Paul talks about so much in His letters to the Church. It is the refreshing of our spirits by the teachings of the Holy Spirit. It is the knowledge of who God is, all that He has already done for us, and all that He promises to us — both for the present and for the days to come.
Knowing God’s Truths
Rom 5:5-10 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
We know that the Holy Spirit does shed abroad God’s love in our hearts (vs 5). We know that we are God’s children. And, we know that God is a good, good Father and He gives to His children good things. So in suffering, we have two choices:
1. To accept that God has a good purpose for allowing suffering in our lives. Then, our suffering can produce perseverance, character, and hope so rich, so restful, and so radiant that we are able to rejoice.
2. Or we can choose to see our suffering as God’s wrath, His judgment upon us. When that happens, we feel hurt, we get angry. and we often become bitter or resentful. At the very least one’s soul is downcast and suffering will not produce hope, but rather to despair.
Make the best choice. In good times and bad, choose to remember God’s amazing love for you!
It’s Our Choice: Hope or Despair
God wants us to turn every obstacle into an opportunity to seek Him. When we:
- Face temptation: God wants us to understand our weakness and vulnerability and seek His strength immediately. He is our Mighty God.
- Become discouraged: God wants us to trust His promises and to look up to Him. He is our Prince of Peace.
- Suffer pain and sorrow: God wants us to know He has a purpose in all suffering and to turn to Him. He is our Great Physician who will heal and restore us.
G. K. Chesterton wrote: “Jesus promised his disciples three things—that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy [joyous], and in constant trouble.”
- God wants us to be dependent on Him,
- to be confident about Him, and
- to be satisfied in Him.
Things of this world will never satisfy. They can only bring conditional contentment that is fleeting. God’s love and His grace are sufficient to give us rest, strength, and hope in all things. He will never disappoint or desert us (Heb 13:5). He is with us always through the power of the Holy Spirit who directs and guides us in all things. Our duty is to be confident, dependent, and surrendered; and our delight is to live for Jesus. He will give us the strength to endure all things.
2 Cor 12:9-10 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
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