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Joyful suffering

March 9, 2018

Joy and suffering are usually at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum.

Joy comes at Christmas, at the birth of a baby, at the completion of a task.

Sorrow appears at funerals, doctor’s appointments, in a court room.

So what in the world is “joyful suffering?”

After listing some obviously positive benefits of salvation, Paul explains joy in the midst of suffering in Romans 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 (Romans 5:3-5).

He’s not talking about balloons and streamers at a funeral. Or doing cartwheels after the doctor tells you that you have stage 4 cancer.

But he’s helping us to take a step or two back and look at suffering in the bigger picture of what God is doing in our lives and in the world.

“Suffering produces endurance” – one more trip to the doctor, one more day without that loved one, one more…and we keep waiting. But it’s not just waiting until the suffering is over, because “endurance produces character.” The endurance brings about a change, a change in character, not just a superficial change. It’s not that you know all the ins and outs of chemo, the doctors and nurses by their first names, and can keep all your meds straight.

Character is seen in your behavior. By joyfully suffering, your character, your inner self, will change. That will be evident to others around you. Sure, you might still have some really bad days, but your character is being changed.

And that character change produces hope. That implies that the character change is a positive one. Obviously, suffering can make us grumpy and bitter – also a character change. But the change that Paul is describing is one that leads to hope.

Do you think that maybe that hope is beyond being cancer free? Greater than not crying yourself to sleep every night in loneliness? Bigger than having a great big family gathering for Christmas?

Verse 5 would seem to indicate that: “…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.”

While those others might give us a goal, the potential remains that they will never happen. Paul is referring to a hope that will not disappoint. A hope that will be fulfilled, because it is not dependent on any human action.

God’s love poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit – the hope of eternity with Him, because of what Christ did on the cross for our. That is really the only hope that is certain.

 

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From → Romans, Uncategorized

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