Monday, February 15, 2010

The Hope of Suffering

In more than one place the Bible calls suffering Christians to rejoice. Sounds strange to our ears, huh? It almost sounds illogical. It is not a call to go out and seek suffering because you are a glutton for punishment, but it is a call to properly face suffering realizing that there is good to be found in it.

The logic is found when we read passages such as this in Romans 5, “…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.”

The writer of this passage, the Apostle Paul, does not get very specific when he speaks of suffering in this passage and we are left to understand that he is referring to a wide range of suffering. Most likely if you are breathing, there is some area in your life that brings you suffering. Let’s think about these characteristics that Paul mentions and think about his words of encouragement. His list includes endurance, character, hope and God’s love.

How many problems are you enduring today that are bigger than the problems you endured a few years ago? Our life is progressive. As we grow and age our problems become more complex. God brings suffering into our lives to help us deal with problems on all sorts of scales. When we pass the finish line of smaller problems our strength is built so we can face larger problems with more strength and wisdom. Can you find encouragement in knowing that you are being prepared today to endure what is around the bend?

Not only does God build endurance, He also desires to build character. Once we have endured smaller problems we should be able to handle future problems with a steadier hand. It is the person that is always prone to drama or the belief that the world is about to come to an end that shows they are not learning endurance and are, therefore, lacking character.

From character, hope is built. Once we know God is faithful and that He has given us the ability to endure we will view the world and our problems differently. Our attitudes ought to be one of encouragement even when life is hard. This hope is not built on simple positive thinking though, it is built on the truth that God has shown us great love. After all, it was through great suffering that God’s love is best demonstrated through the work of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.

Problems will come your way. As you look upon them, what are you learning? Is your perspective one of finding true hope in God?

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