October 17 I Monday
1 Thessalonians 5
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
—Romans 5:3-4, ESV
With our past, we can rejoice in being at peace with God. With our future, we can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. But what about our present? Paul writes, “we rejoice in our sufferings” (Romans 5:3, ESV). Suffering is probably not the answer we would expect to find reasons to rejoice in at the present.
In truth, who would want to have suffering, and let alone, rejoice in it? If we walked into any book store, we would find books on how to handle problems, how to avoid problems, how to manage problems, how to reduce problems and how to get rid of problems. We will probably never find a book on how to rejoice in our problems. Yet, this is the very point that Paul is making. If we are going to enjoy the glory of God, we are going to have to learn to live with suffering. Paul tells us why: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory” (Romans 8:17). Paul is saying that our share in His suffering is going to contribute to sharing in His glory; he continues, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
When we put everything into perspective, we find that our present suffering is nothing compared to what is coming in the future—the glory of God. If the goal is to have the righteousness of God fully expressed in our lives, then the tool for perfecting that is our sufferings.
In fact, suffering has dignity in the New Testament. The author of Hebrews tells us, “Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). This does not mean that Jesus was ever disobedient; but in becoming a man, He did not take the fast track or soft road through life. He was tempted in all points like we are, but learned obedience by the things He suffered.
Hard times can bring good returns. We learn far more from our tears than we ever learn from our laughter. Psalm 56:8 tells us, “Put my tears into Your bottle” (NKJV). Why does God keep our tears in His bottle? Because our tears, again and again, have been an investment in our growth and maturity in the production of God’s character and the moulding of our lives into His image. May we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that God never wastes anything, but indeed, uses it to bring us closer to His likeness.
Prayer: Dear God, thank You for Your goodness and love. Help me to rejoice in my sufferings, because through them, You are producing a reflection of Your own character in me.