Inspired by Romans 5:1-5
“And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 (NRSV)
Who in their right mind would boast in their suffering? Is suffering something to be desired? Something to be proud of? Does God make us suffer so that we will have hope in him?
Despite some well-meaning claims to the contrary, the answer is no. God does not make us suffer, and God does not want us to suffer. But God understands that suffering is a natural part of life, and it’s going to happen to all of us. It even happened to him, when he took on human flesh, became the incarnate Christ, and suffered death on the cross.
But because we have a God who knows and understands suffering in the deepest core of his being, we can be assured that whatever suffering we may experience in our lives, God will never abandon us and make us face it alone. In the messiest, dirtiest, most unholy parts of life, God will be there with us, strengthening us with his love and compassion, encouraging us to cling to him, because he will get us through it.
Paul is not celebrating endurance and character as positive outcomes of suffering; he is listing them as stops on the journey to hope, and it is that hope which is celebrated. Endurance will not save us. Character will not save us. The God who has already poured his love into our hearts will save us, and it is in him that we hope.
Suffering is a part of life, but even in the worst of our suffering, our God stands with us.
Let us pray. Compassionate God, you desire peace in our lives. Help us to seek you in difficult times, that we may be strengthened by your hope, your love, and your presence. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.