“…but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).”
So many in our fellowship and in my relationship circles have been wrestling with family illness or personal tragedy in the last few weeks. Some are working through the health issues their aging parents face. A friend faced the death of a young niece. An acquaintance is eye to eye with a tumor in a young child. Another friend attended the burial of his wife. So much struggle and suffering in our broken world.
I’ve heard people say things like, “God never gives you more than you can handle (which is not in the Bible, by the way),” and “God is in control.” These statements essentially say that God is the one to blame for such suffering and tragedy. Unlike some, I do not believe God made these events happen. I believe they are signs of the broken nature of our world. Things do not always work the way they were intended, not because God designed them poorly, but because, somehow, the disorder of human Sin has impacted every sphere of life. Let me be clear, I’m not saying that each person’s suffering is directly caused by their particular sins, though that may, at times be the case. I am saying that our collective human Sin has disordered the world in such a way that we all suffer for it.
So how do Christians keep hope when encountering suffering? Romans 5: 1-5 is an important passage for us. It tells us that, even in suffering, God is at work, refining us, shaping us, and making us ready for eternal life. In suffering, we are people of hope because we worship a God who, in Jesus Christ, comes directly to us where we hurt so that he can, through death and resurrection, bring healing and eternal life.
Though it is hard work that only the grace of God can accomplish, our call is to look for God working in and through the suffering and to offer ourselves to be used by God to bring the comfort and peace of Jesus to the suffering of others.
“Lord, give us the strength of your Holy Spirit to love you and others even when circumstances make that very difficult. Give us courage to enter suffering while holding onto the hope of your coming eternal Kingdom in which there will be no more mourning or crying or pain and in which death will be no more! Amen!’