The Hope of Suffering

This morning I listened to a sermon by Brandon Booth at Christ Community Church. He did a good job. It helped to solidify some things I’ve been kicking around.

Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Mr. Booth was talking about how the previous chapter talks about the essence of the gospel: justification through faith, as exemplified in the life of Abraham (which, by the way, I love, since Abraham’s faith showcases that someone who doesn’t have a history of faith, doesn’t live among people of faith, can change). Paul continues in chapter 5 with the hope we have of what’s to come–the glory of God. And then we have what’s sandwiched in between conversion and the hope to come: this life, “rejoic[ing] in our sufferings.”

I certainly have not had nearly as many sufferings as lots of people, however, I have found that my own personal sufferings are usually enough for me. The current round of doctor appointments with perpetual puzzlement as to why my body won’t respond to treatment has been more than enough. Frankly, I’ve been struggling not to give in to discouragement and despair (contrary to Joshua 1:6-9).

But I love this anchor that Paul returns to. We can rejoice in the midst of our sufferings because we are so blessed to know that God has a purpose somewhere . . . that our loving Father has allowed these sufferings, rather than some random occurrence. And that in the midst of suffering, we grow.

I often find myself feeling like I’m paddling upstream, fighting against overwhelming circumstances. I’m not daily accepting this is where God has me right now and then looking for what He wants to do. I’m so focused on trying to change my circumstances that I miss the opportunities for growth and joy.

Mr. Booth’s point was that rejoicing in suffering requires a similar intentional inaction that we rely on for salvation. When we’re first saved we throw ourselves on Christ’s sacrifice. In salvation we can (often reluctantly) do the nothing required. Yet in the midst of suffering, we struggle against the suffering. I want to be a woman who can put my faith firmly in the Holy Spirit’s abilities to transform me into Christ’s image in the midst of this life. I want to be able to rest and revel in the journey because of God’s presence, rather than fighting with my suffering. God, change my heart to be able to do nothing and leave the everything to You!

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