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, ESV)
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings…” What? First let’s go back one verse where Paul says, “Through [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2, ESV). We have obtained access to the Heavenly Father by faith into his grace. Now think about the words “by faith into…grace.” Faith in Jesus leads us into the grace of God. That is amazing. In my home, the front door leads into the entryway. Our spiritual door is faith in Jesus. Faith is how we step through the door and stand in the place that is grace. So rejoice! You are standing in God’s grace.
Then after verse 2, Paul says, “Not only that, but [a contrasting term] we rejoice in our sufferings.” Stop the music! Hold the bus! Slow down, pilgrim, you say. You understand that we can rejoice as we stand in God’s grace. You see that we can rejoice in the hope of God’s glory, but rejoicing in suffering? You’re not so sure. What kind of suffering?
Paul isn’t talking about suffering, is he? The Greek word for “suffering” here is thlipesos: to crush, press, compress, squeeze. So this verse literally says that we rejoice in being crushed, pressed, compressed, and squeezed. Do we really rejoice in this? Why?
I’m glad you asked.
Paul says that “suffering produces endurance.” Is that supposed to be good? Suffering doesn’t produce deliverance but endurance. So, I am going to go through this suffering for a while. And “endurance produces character.” Okay, I see what he is saying now.
And “character produces hope.” So what you’re telling me is that my suffering eventually produces hope. Hope of what? Suffering produces the hope that we will get to stand in the glory of God.
We will never be ashamed if we hope because God has poured his love into us through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Think about the suffering you are experiencing. Is it the result of a choice you made? Is it from a relationship? Is it from the fallenness of this world? Whatever its source, how can you allow the suffering to work in you to produce character and hope? Today’s suffering can produce an eagerness to experience God’s glory.
Lord, help me to look at my current suffering with joy. Not because suffering is joyful but because I know you have poured your love into my heart and I know that one-day I will be in your presence…. (Continue praying.)
P. Brian Noble