Last week, we looked at the foundation of our joy: the grace of God and His free gift of eternal life in Christ. Heaven seems like a great reason to rejoice, right?
But in the next verse of Romans 5, Paul throws a curveball:
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings . . .” (Romans 5:3)
Wait, what? I’m on board with rejoicing in the thought of eternal glory, but rejoicing in suffering? You better explain yourself, Paul!
“ . . . Knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)
I’d love to develop endurance, character, and hope. But if I’m honest, I’d rather enjoy a comfortable, easy, suffering-free life. I lose interest my character development quickly if it requires suffering to get there.
However, God is more concerned with my character than my comfort. He is working to conform me to the likeness of His Son, not to conform my lifestyle to match my neighbor’s. Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic and cancer survivor, says it this way: “Sometimes God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”
God hates suffering, illness, tragedy, and death. But in His mysterious sovereignty, He uses suffering to accomplish what He loves: teaching His beloved children endurance, growing our character, and giving us hope. As our earthly foundations crumble through suffering, we see that the only true source of hope is the Lord. Suffering is not good. But finding our hope in the Lord is very good indeed.
No matter what you face this week, your suffering will produce something wonderful: hope in the Lord.
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