And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappointment us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts… (Rom. 5:3-5)
There are different kinds of suffering. There’s suffering that’s senseless, brutal, devoid of hope. And then there’s suffering that can bring benefits, blessings, and opportunities to learn and grow. Paul is obviously talking about the second kind of suffering.
Even though I know that suffering can be a gift, I can’t say that I’ve often, like Paul, “boasted” in my suffering. Most of the time I have only appreciated my suffering in retrospect; that is, when I have looked back and realized that I wouldn’t be the person I am without the suffering I have gone through.
We all suffer. To be human is to suffer. We suffer from hurt, illness, disappointments, prejudice, gossip, meanness, depression, addictions, loss, and broken hearts.
The question is not “Will we suffer?” but “What are we going to do with our suffering?” If we indulge our suffering by playing the victim, by giving up, or by playing weak, then our response will kill us—if not literally, then emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. But if we see that our suffering is a time to learn and grow, then our suffering can be redemptive. Speaking of redemptive: Let’s never forget that Jesus suffered in order to forgive our sins and the sins of the whole world.
What can we learn from suffering? As Paul says: endurance, character, hope. Strong gifts. What else? How about patience, wisdom, kindness, empathy, and resilience?
If we are whining about our suffering, it won’t be helpful. If we are feeling picked-on or persecuted, we may be wasting an opportunity to grow.
I encourage us to ask Jesus what He would have us learn from our suffering. When we remember that we’re never alone with our suffering, that Jesus is right there, we will be more likely to know that God is pouring His love into our hearts during such times.
- What have you learned and how have you grown through the suffering you have gone through?
- What would it take for you to know and trust that you never suffer alone, that Jesus is right with you, no matter what you go through?
- Would you be the person you are, would you have the endurance and wisdom that you have without your suffering? Can you see that your suffering tore a hole in your heart through which God could pour in love?
My Barnabas invites you to watch the video below: