Suffering Good News
Ain’t it funny how when life is grand everyone tends to be happy? But when things turn sour, get sideways or flip completely upside down the typical human reaction is frustration, sadness, anger, or despair. Quite often we are fairly short sighted. We can't see a different reality besides the one we want, the one we really, really want deep down in our heart. But in those not-so-grand times we aren’t getting what we want. When the suffering comes we often don't see beyond the horizon of our own desires for health, wealth and relationship. I don’t mean to say that all suffering is caused by a sinful desire, not at all. But in the moment, the hardship that is happening isn’t what we signed up for. How we respond can be sin, but isn’t automatically so. Either way, those times can be miserable.
But there is a particular group of folks for which suffering, no matter how horrible it feels, how heavy it weighs on us, how long it lasts, it is actually good news. Let me say that again for those in the back, for believers suffering is good news! In fact I would go so far as to say there is no better news than having something so negative that none of us would imagine for ourselves, to be used for our ultimate good. This is exactly what our good God does.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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.
Those who stand before the ultimate judge no longer condemned but actually having been completely righteous and having all guilt completely removed from our record, this hope, this grace is a magnificent reality. And it comes to us through faith in the God who is no longer at war with us because of what Jesus did for us.
All our suffering, every single bit it worthy of a party! We can and should rejoice in those most dark and difficult times. Weird, huh? But this is indeed reality. It’s a simple formula, easy to understand. Paul wants us to know that when we suffer endurance is a result. Endurance in turn gives us character and character gives us a confident expectation that God, who was faithful to Abraham will also be faithful to us. Every single promise to us is yes and amen. And this hope that is created from the starting point of our justification cannot ever be false hope since the Love of God is working within us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Only the gospel can create such a counterintuitive reality from the painful scenarios of life. Only the Power of God can do something in us that causes this. Only the Gospel responding in light of this truth makes the unjustified wonder and try to match our reality with empty phrases like “if it doesn’t kill you it just makes you stronger” or “oh, it’ll work out somehow”. Ultimately for believers, it is the glory of God on display. That is our hope. His glory and our hope are the reality that He can produce in us the same kind of response as our Lord, endurance that builds character which produces hope for the joy of the Father’s glory. May we all live in the faith of this truth. And pray that we do!