THERE IS A ‘BECAUSE’
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Romans 5:3-4
One of my frustrations with the church, in the past, has been the misuse of scripture. It’s as if snippets of the Bible were memorized, categorized internally on a 3×5 card, then spit out again in what was considered an appropriate situation. I can’t count how many sermons I’ve heard over the course of my lifetime on ‘rejoicing in suffering.’ It was a command by rote, completely void of the scriptural context of intimate relationship with God. Add to that the fact that the command to rejoice was followed up with an important ‘because’.
I don’t rejoice in suffering because I enjoy hurting. I know this is ludicrous and if I’m told that God expects that of me, that He enjoys hurting me, this creates such a crack in our relationship that only truth can fix it. How many of God’s children have shut God out of their lives because they are angry He didn’t stop the pain in their lives! Satan loves errors in theology because of their potential to damage our trust in God.
I rejoice in my suffering today and rejoicing has two components; grief and joy. The groaning of pain can coexist with a deep abiding joy because of the knowledge that God always uses our pain, as He did with Jesus’ suffering, to bring redemption. God is hoping that we will trust Him through our trials so that He is given the opportunity to bring full redemption and meaning to what we have endured.
How many have come to Christ because pain drove them to God’s arms? How many have discovered that, in coming to the end of themselves, they found the power of Scripture? That is my witness. A life of ease numbed out my need of God.
Suffering does produce endurance, character, and hope. When going through something excruciating, I lean on my previous experiences in the desert. Where I once would have panted and fainted, I now have spiritual muscles to endure, to stand on scripture, to find a strength in prayer that was not available to me ten years ago.
If anyone has ever told you to be joyful in suffering, ended their sermon there and walked away, perhaps you became wary of God. Let these truths repair the breech in your relationship. Whenever things are really hard, I dig in the Word, abide in Christ deeply in my spirit, and I say out loud, “I’ll tell you one thing. The redemption of this pain must be more beautiful than I can imagine.” The greater the pain, the more stunning its outcome. May we live to see it.
You are Redeemer! Your death on Calvary was redeemed. You bore the sins of the world. Then, You rose again to give us resurrection power. I can’t wait to see all of what you do with the suffering of Your church. Amen.