Romans 5:2b-5, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 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.”
It is suffering lived in dependent trust that produces holy perseverance in us. We learn to live more stable and secure lives by rooting ourselves more and more deeply into God Himself. And this perseverance lived as a “long obedience in the same direction” (a phrase taken by Eugene Peterson from Friedrich Nietzsche) establishes godly character. It is out of this established character of loving dependence on God Himself that we find hope in the midst of and as a fruit of the suffering-perseverance-character process.
Of course I do rejoice in the future hope of sharing in God’s glory—becoming more and more completely like Him. This is thrilling and exciting. But that sharing in His glory does not happen in some automatic or instant fashion. Being transformed into the likeness of His glory involves a process of seeing my character shaped by Him. One of His most effective tools are the places of pain, of hardship, of suffering that I face along the way.
God loves me overwhelmingly in the midst of this process. Hope that doesn’t disappoint is hope that has learned to entrust itself and the outcomes into the loving hands of the Father. I have already seen the other side of a few difficult places of my journey. My response has not been to say, “Well, that was sure disappointing. What a waste of time! How meaningless that was!” Thanks, Father, that You are at work in me like this.
So, I’m saying that I believe suffering produces joy indirectly. I experience joy in the midst of my hardships and sufferings because I know, whether by unseen faith or by reflecting back over my journey so far, that God is causing me to grow in endurance and in solid character.
Thank You, Father, for this text. Enable me to see the joy in the midst of painful crises and the long, monotonous places I walk through. Enable me to know what to embrace and what to reject. Help me to see You in the midst of all of it. Amen.