January 13 I Thursday
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings....”
As crazy as it sounds, the Apostle Paul tells us, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings…” (Romans 5:3, ESV). This may be a foreign message to many people, but suffering is our friend, not our enemy.
There is a very popular gospel that sees no value in suffering, and looks for health and wealth as being evidence of God’s blessing. This is not the gospel of Jesus Christ, as Hebrews 5:8 tells us of Jesus, “Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered.” Paul’s life was one of suffering too, not that he simply tolerated it, but he actually rejoiced in his sufferings. Paul presents suffering as a creative force. When it comes, it needs to be harnessed and embraced as being a productive force. It is important to qualify this in that we are kind and gentle to those who are suffering. God often does His deepest work in people’s lives in these times, but it is usually seen in retrospect.
The important issue is not the suffering, but our attitude towards it. Suffering produces and is creating something better. Paul says, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4, ESV). In the Christian life, perseverance, character and hope are marks of maturity. The Old Testament blessings of God were seen in prosperity amongst His people, but God’s blessings in the New Testament are seen through adversity that build, mold and strengthen us.
Suffering also softens us. After linking suffering with perseverance, character and hope, Paul says, “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” (Romans 5:5, ESV). It is in our sufferings we experience more deeply and richly the presence of God. Romans 8:17 says, “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.” This is not a case of “here’s the glory, but here’s the catch; we are going to suffer.” Paul is saying that our sharing in Christ’s sufferings is going to contribute to sharing in His glory.
Our suffering allows us to meet with Christ in a deeply intimate way, and discover His strength for our weakness, His wisdom for our folly and His comfort for our fears. The end result will be someone who Jesus will use to reach others with the same comfort, strength and wisdom they have received from Him. May we take comfort and strength in the presence of Jesus in times of suffering.
Prayer: Glorious God, thank You that Your presence is always with me in times of suffering. I will choose to rejoice in my suffering, knowing that You are using my suffering to produce endurance, character and hope. Amen!