“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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.”
Have you ever found yourself suffering before? Maybe you’re suffering right now. Maybe it is your health – either it has declined and you just can’t do the things that you used to do. Maybe it is a disease that you’re fighting right now like cancer. It snuck up unexpectedly and has flipped your life upside down.
Or it could be that you’re suffering over a strained or broken relationship. A divorce. A son or daughter with whom you haven’t spoken in years. Maybe you’re suffering pain and anguish over the death of a spouse.
There is much suffering in our world today. Suffering isn’t new and it certainly isn’t unique to our modern day society, although sometimes it seems like we suffering from around the world in front of us more frequently. This is likely due to the rapid innovations in technology that allow the news to be on TV 24 hours a day and instantly available at our fingertips whenever we want it on the internet. Having access to all of this information can cause us to empathize and suffer with those who are struggling in different places.
Suffering is a byproduct of sin and not a part of God’s perfect plan for creation. He never intended for us to suffer and experience the pain and anguish that come along with it. When Adam and Eve sinned, they unleashed suffering on the world that they couldn’t imagine.
When we know that someone is suffering we often try to comfort them. We’ll tell them that we’re praying for them. We’ll tell them that we hope they can get past their suffering. Paul, in our reading for today, speaks about suffering a little differently. He tells us to rejoice in our sufferings. Wait, what? Rejoice? That’s the last thing on our mind when we’re suffering. But he explains that because we have been saved by God and given his grace we can rejoice in our suffering. Why? Because, he says, suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope doesn’t put us to shame.
So as Christians we are never promised a life without suffering but we are promised forgiveness and new life. We also have the hope in the one, Jesus, who has destroyed death, risen and lives on high. He is the one who is in control no matter if we’re suffering or not and he’s the one who will return to take us to be with him. That’s a hope that never fails!
Let us pray:
Dear Heavenly Father, help us to rejoice in our sufferings because of the hope that we have in you. Help us to always remember the gifts of life, forgiveness and love that your Son Jesus won for us on the cross. Help us to share the hope that we have with those around us who are suffering. We ask all of this in Jesus’ name, Amen