Journeying through Suffering toward Hope

Day 39 - May 6 / Elder John Tanner

Romans 5:3-5

"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

No way around it:  This is a hard teaching.  Any time you read a passage calling you to do the very opposite of what feels natural, you know you’re about to do some spiritual exercise.  Sanctification is on tap.  

If we’re honest, most of us wouldn’t have written this passage with these words.  Our version would have said something like: Avoid suffering by working hard, following the rules, minimizing risk, making and saving lots of money, etc.  Or maybe we’d write, “Reject suffering by remembering to stay positive, living as protected and safe a life as possible, and finding lots of ways to numb or distract ourselves from the pain.

But Paul doesn’t call us to avoid or reject suffering.  He calls us to rejoice in it.  

Say what?  

For this to make any sense, we have to dig in a little to the word “rejoice.”  It  involves the word joy, and also conveys the idea of delight.  

Let’s be clear here.  Paul doesn’t say, “Be happy.”  Or, “Feel good about.”  That would be unreasonable, even cruel in its inhumanity.

Being joyful doesn’t mean liking, or being happy about something.  It’s deeper than that.  Being joyful involves more of a choice than a feeling.  It requires us  to act, to exercise our wills in praise, knowing that our suffering comes with purpose.  That the suffering is not arbitrary.  That, in the long and eternal view, it will lead to our good.  

But it doesn’t feel good.  In fact, it feels terrible.  It’s paralyzing.  Soul-crushing, even.  Yes, and Paul knows that.  And so does Jesus.  

So let’s look to Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross.   See, He wasn’t rejoicing in the Cross itself.  He lamented over it.  Rather, He was rejoicing in what the Cross would bring.  He was rejoicing in doing the Father’s will.  His eyes were focused on the eternal purpose, even while His body and soul were crushed with the temporal pain.  

How can we rejoice in our suffering?  Not by blindly accepting our circumstances.  Or feigning strength or positivity.  But by being profoundly honest in prayer, that the suffering hurts and we hate it.  And then asking for grace to see with eternal eyes, to believe that His mercies are new every morning and that one fine day, we’ll cross that River.
Prayer Points:
  • For peace & comfort for those who are suffering right now
  • For grace to be honest about your own suffering
  • For opportunities to relieve others' suffering
  • For eyes that stay fixed on Jesus & can hope in His promises
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