Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans: “…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. —Romans 5:2-5
MPWM faithful reader, do you like pain? Do you like suffering? I certainly don’t. I reach for pain relief meds at the slightest sign of a headache. How and why should we rejoice in our suffering? Suffering is uncomfortable and painful.
Do you think Paul was speaking only of himself, perhaps in third person? I think not. Based on my belief in the inspired authenticity of the Bible, I believe he’s talking to Christian believers today. Reading Paul’s letters, it’s obvious that he had his share of suffering—painful experiences, troubles, trials and hardships.
In 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, Paul listed all he endured: 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
(Can you believe the audacity to complain about having to wait in rush-hour traffic?) Also, in his letter to the church at Philippi, which was written during imprisonment, Paul expressed his desire to know Christ better by partnering with Him in his suffering. Enduring much suffering for the cause of Christ taught Paul to be content in all circumstances. He encouraged the Philippians to cultivate this same ability. (Philippians 3:10-11; 4:11).
The idea of Christians suffering today is frowned upon. The message of suffering is no longer on our list of sermon topics or Bible Study teaching series in the local church. On the rare occasions that the subject of suffering comes up it is directed toward foreign countries plagued by enormous hardships, persecution, and suffering. Yet, in America the reality of suffering, hardships and adversity among Christians is evident by the long prayer lines, many prayer requests. Since suffering is on the rise, perhaps now is the time to teach people how to rejoice and not lose hope during tough times.
The disadvantages and distresses of life are more prevalent in our time than during Apostle Paul and the early Christians lifetime. Why? It’s a different world—larger population, different culture, along with changing socioeconomic factors. Without a doubt, life can be hard and painful…brutal in fact! The main point of emphasis Paul makes is that of our attitude during suffering. While going through the adversities of life, we must always have hope—an expectation that troubles won’t last always. Having this hope gives us a reason to rejoice…envision better. Secondly, we are able to rejoice when we “know” there is purpose for our pain. Knowing that God is intentional in allowing us to experience the unpleasantness and vicissitudes of life should motivate us. Our motivation is based on our knowledge of God. Know this: whatever God allows is to empower us to be better, do better, live better, and have a better relationship with Him; living in harmony with His plan for our lives. Ultimately, suffering is a process that produces Christ’s character in us.
How should I rejoice in suffering? By continuing to give God praise, being thankful and worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ in spite of hardships, trials and tribulation. Why should I rejoice? My hope (expectation) is solidified by my knowledge of what the outcome will be. (God always causes us to triumph in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14). Although we have disappointments in life, hope and faith in God will not result in disappointment. He pours into us His love, which will sustain us through all life’s ups and down.